Exhibition games may not count toward a team’s overall record, but don’t tell that to the Golden Eagles.
The women’s basketball team plays its first of two exhibition games this Saturday against Winona State at the Al McGuire Center. The second is Monday at home against Wisconsin-Parkside. Marquette does not scout its preseason opponents, but it still treats these contests seriously.
“When we go into this game we’re going to prepare for it like we’re playing UConn or in the Big East championship, so we just want to try to use this as a learning experience to get better,” sophomore center Apiew Ojulu said.
The Golden Eagles have been addressing areas of concern in practice this week. Coach Terri Mitchell has noted the team’s need to improve offensively, and she will be keeping a close watch on that Saturday.
“We’ve been watching a lot of film with them this week to show them where we’re deficient right now and how much better we need to be,” Mitchell said. “We’re not going to have everything figured out by Saturday, but it’ll be so great to play against someone else.”
Winona State, hailing from Winona, Minn., is a member of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference in Division II. It finished 18-11 overall last season and 13-9 in league play. They aren’t expected to defeat a Marquette team that has seen much more demanding competition in the Big East, but the team could nevertheless pose a challenge.
The Warriors are physically a much smaller team than Marquette; the three tallest players are each 6-foot-1 while Marquette has six players 6-foot or taller. Junior forward Katherine Plouffe and the other power position players will use this to their advantage.
“The more we get it inside, the more Winona will have to collapse on us, which will allow us to get shots off for our guards,” Plouffe said.
Mitchell, however, knows that smaller teams can also be quite pesky. In place of their lack of size, they can move faster up and down the floor and cause transition issues.
“They can probably press us,” Mitchell said. “That means they’ll be up and get quicker, so we have to take advantage of getting in the paint.”
Seeing how the freshmen and sophomores respond to the exhibition schedule is an area to which Mitchell will pay particular attention. The Golden Eagles have five sophomores and three freshmen on the roster this season, and Mitchell wants to find out who will be fitting into her regular rotation.
“How do you sell them about Saturday night?” Mitchell asked. “By proving that they belong out there and they can handle officials and they can handle the crowd no matter what it is. If they can prove that to me, that means they can play against Butler.”
Ojulu knows everyone needs to put her best foot forward and show Mitchell what they can be capable of.
“You actually have to play, because if you don’t play very hard you’re not going to perform at a better level against other teams,” Ojulu said.
Despite the pressure to play well, Plouffe knows she and the rest of the team will also want to make the game an enjoyable experience before the real games arrive.
“I’m sure we’ll be a little nervous and excited, so we’re going to go out there and have some fun and try to practice what we do in practice,” Plouffe said.