The Saints women’s season wrapped up Saturday with a loss to Southwestern Oregon, 74-61.
As those who follow the team know, it hasn’t been an easy year. The Saints finished last in the NWAC South division with a record of 2-14, and went 7-21 overall. And part of what made the season so discouraging was how well they started the season. They began 4-1, and looked like a team that could be playoff bound, much like the Mt. Hood men.
The team headed into December and picked up a few losses. The Saints’ winter break started, and due to repeated poor weather they had to cancel practices and reschedule games. Missing the practices definitely hurt the young, freshman-heavy team, while other teams in towns that didn’t see much snow or ice got valuable court time. Rescheduled games were moved to scheduled practice days. And even more days were affected, because the team practices lighter than usual just before game day to make sure players are fully rested.
Mt. Hood also saw an onslaught of injuries. Most of the season, the Saints struggled to keep more than six players healthy at once.
Of course, losing games can’t solely be blamed on these factors, but they certainly played a huge role.
Despite all that, the Mt. Hood women found enjoyment during the long season. Every game they walked on the court with their heads held high, and even in defeat they walked off the court with their chins in the air. They knew they were giving their all, and that was all that mattered. Sure, they would have enjoyed winning, but this just wasn’t that season, so they made the best of it.
Freshman point guard Brooke Plecker said, “I think the best moments for me was just hanging with the girls. They are a great bunch and we had some great laughs together.”
Plecker noted an early high point: the Saints’ opening game.
“Basketball-wise, I think it would be when we beat Peninsula in preseason,” she said. “We knew we were a young team coming in and we would face lots of challenges with our size and age. Peninsula has a great history and we knew they would be a tough team. It was like looking at giants when they walked in, but in the end ’Hood came out winning (62-61). I think that game really gave us the push and confidence we needed and made us believe in ourselves a bit more.”
Plecker said she learned a lot from the season. “(My b)iggest takeaway was overcoming adversity and practicing mental toughness,” she said. “A lot can get you down in a competitive atmosphere… we had a lot come at us that we weren’t expecting. It takes a moment where you decide: Are you going to just keep getting beat down or are you going to do something about it?
Some days were really tough mentally and physically but us girls kept showing up and pushing through, which taught me a lot,” she said.
Freshman forward Chloe Cummins had very similar feelings on how the team grew this season.
“I think personally and as a team, we learned how to deal with adversity through all the struggles we had,” Cummins said. “From injuries, to losing players off of our roster, and even personal life struggles – we had to manage to keep going, no matter what, and it made us stronger individuals.”
Freshman point guard Jessica Parker couldn’t chose one best part of the season, but she recalled the positive push from head coach John Hawley: “After our games when coach told us he was proud of us – that feeling was something you can’t beat.”
For his part, Hawley said that pride was well-earned.
“They’re a super group of young ladies. They came to practice every day no matter what; whether there was five of them or six of them, it didn’t matter,” he said. “They came ever day ready to work and learn.”
The team did manage to have a lot of fun this year. Plecker told of the time Parker had the whole team laughing in the gym: “She sagged her pants, pulled up her socks high, and untucked her jersey… (it) made her look like a tiny gangster. Then (she) proceeded to shoot a granny (style) half-court shot. That made us all die of laughter.”
Plecker singled out two payers who worked especially hard this season, like much of the team did.
“I’d give it to Jess (Parker) or Nyah (Curtis),” she said. “Jess always gives 100 percent in practice and games. Even if energy was lacking everywhere else you could see her put it all on her back and carry it all. But I have to give credit to Nyah as well. This girl isn’t the biggest and all year she worked her butt off down low facing some literal giants.
“She gave all the effort she could and it shows in her character and her game.” Plecker said.
Parker summed up the season for Mt. Hood in perfect words. She said the biggest lesson was “is either you like it or you love it, because when you love it you don’t care about the winning and losing, you care about improvement and what you learn.
“Our biggest takeaway was the character it built in us girls to be faced with adversity… and still be able to finish the season proud.”