North Central Women’s Basketball Season Preview

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Starting Fresh

Like many teams on campus, the North Central women’s basketball team is looking forward to things getting back to normal. Unlike last year, which featured an abbreviated conference-only spring schedule. The team doesn’t feel their spring performance is a true reflection of their abilities, so they’re looking to get back to normal not just on the schedule but on the floor.

Maggie McCloskey-Baxn (Head Coach): I think we’re trying to build on what we did in the Spring; we did a lot of great work in the spring as a team and you know just kind of proving the conference wrong and working on just getting better each day. Hopefully get some wins out of it. 

Mitrese Smith (Senior Center): I think it’s just last year we went through a really tough time as well as everybody else and this year we’re definitely getting ready to make some waves and I think that what we’re most excited about is getting out there and actually playing a normal game, instead of with all the regulations and restrictions. 

IxChel Leeuwenburgh (Senior Power Forward):  I’m just most looking forward to having a season to develop with the team, it’s been a while since I feel like we’ve been able to be in a grove and I can’t think of a better group of women to do it with. So, I’m just excited to play with them. 

Senior Leadership

With only three seniors on the team, the Cardinals are light on players who have experienced a full college basketball season before. But those three seniors say they’ve seen good progress so far as the team has built chemistry throughout 2021 in preparation for their November season tip-off.

Allison Pearson (Senior Point Guard): I think we have really good team chemistry on the court. Like, we have only been playing a few months together and we already have a feel for each other, and we play really well off of each other. So, it’ll be fun to see how all the newcomers mesh in, they’ve already done so already but, just getting to play with everyone and getting in a rhythm of playing a full year. 

IL: I think what’s really special about this team is like we all want to work together. Like, we have a goal to be better than we have before and I think if we’re all buying into, not only each other as teammates but just like the program, and so I’m really hoping that we can like see that on the court.

MS: I think we’ve just been saying that it’s a vibe. It’s a definitely a different vibe than what we’ve been used to before and it’s just a lot of we’re up, we’re ready, we’ve never wanted to play basketball more ever. So, this is like, it’s super exciting. 

Closing a Chapter

Coach McCloskey-Bax is well aware of the importance of her trio of seniors, and they’re a special group to her not only because of their basketball and leadership skills but because their journey North Central has mirrored her own through her first four years on the job.

MMB: It’s been exciting because, IxChel, Allision, and Mitrese, they’ve been with me for four years. So, this is my first group of four years that they know what to expect out of me, I know what to expect out of them. So, you know I think they’ve done a really good job of making this year count and hopefully building something special. 

Looking Ahead

The Cardinals tip off their season on Tuesday, November 9th at home in Gregory Arena against the St. Mary’s College Belles. The team is focused on specific goals for themselves, but more general goals for the team as a young coach and small group of seniors look to help this program succeed not only this season but into the future.

MS: I think personal goals, I really, I’m aspiring to score a double-double. Definitely, we struggled in the past with scoring and I think that with everyone trying to get a double-double or even just in the double digits points, I think that’s going to be the best for us. And for our team, we’re going to try to score about 80-90 points a game so that pretty high but we’re going to try to do it. 

MMB: We’re looking to compete in conference. I want to make the tournament, I want to hopefully get to that home court for the conference tournament. But right now, it’s just getting better each day. We’ve got to kind of break things down and just have some fun with it. After the year we had last year, you know all the stress that we’re just looking forward to being able to play a hopefully normal season and just compete with the conference. 

AP: Our expectations is just to be one of the top teams in conference. I know each year we’ve gotten better and better and this year we’re just looking to go make that final push, me and the other seniors. And leave this program in a really great spot for the future.


This story appeared as part of the October 28 episode of The Red Zone