D-II team preps for D-I games

Meg Seeger

The St. Edward’s women’s basketball team will open their season with two Division I exhibition games, visiting the University of Texas on Oct. 27 at the Frank Erwin Center, followed by a matchup with Baylor on Nov. 3 in Waco, Texas. Although these games will not count towards the team’s record, they represent a unique opportunity for the Hilltoppers.

Head Coach Jennifer White said both D-I games are a direct result of maintaining  relationships. White was a teammate of Baylor’s Head Coach—Kim Mulkey—at Louisiana Tech University, and has always been interested in scheduling a UT versus St. Edward’s game because the schools are so close.

So when the Longhorns’ Director of Women’s Basketball Operations contacted St. Edward’s to schedule an exhibition game, White accepted.

Although it will be St. Edward’s first game against UT, this will be the Hilltoppers third consecutive year competing with Baylor. The Bears are currently ranked fifth in the nation by the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, while St. Edward’s was picked to finish fifth in the Heartland Conference, according to its Preseason Poll.

Although this year’s team is a versatile one, the biggest challenge with the two D-I teams will be the height and strength differences, White said. Baylor’s tallest player is center Brittney Griner: who stands 6-foot-8. Meanwhile, UT’s tallest players are Cokie Reed and Ashley Gayle, both 6-foot-4.

Clearly, these exhibition games allow St. Edward’s the chance to see if they can hold their own against the nation’s top players, said White. Not to mention, St. Edward’s is looking forward to the opportunity to compete in two major D-I venues.

“It’s a really cool experience for us,” said senior point guard Brittany Ward.

The overall experience of playing two DI schools, however, is not the only incentive for St. Edward’s. Both UT and Baylor pay a guaranteed sum for the women’s basketball team to come and play them.

“From a financial standpoint it’s beneficial to us,” White said.

The women’s team just began practices this week, and–according to White–“right now we are just focused on us.”

No game that the team will play this season will be an easy one, said junior psychology major Sarah Milewski. Because of this, White says this season will be an opportunity for the Hilltoppers to win a lot of games or lose a lot of games.

With four freshman, three transfers and eight holdovers, the team is working on getting everybody on the same page so they can execute their offensive and defensive schemes effectively against teams like Newman and UT-Permian Basin, said Milewski. But both on and off the court, White is looking for something a little different.

“I’m looking for us to be competitive and have a little swagger,” said White.

With some tough games ahead of them, Milewski said the team already knows what is expected of them.

“We all know what we want,” Milewski said. “We want to win.”