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  • Writer's pictureJayla VanHorn

10 Reasons to Root for Ohio Wesleyan Women's Hoops

Can the coach really pull off “The Griddy?”

The only way to find out is to follow the Ohio Wesleyan University women’s basketball team, which is waiting for coach Stacey Lobdell to deliver on her promise to perform the popular dance move if the team won the NCAC conference title. They did – and now the squad is eager to see Lobdell’s moves.

That’s one of 10 reasons why you should root for the Battling Bishops this year:

1.) Return of NCAC Leading Assists General “Little Bean”

For three consecutive years, the Battling Bishops’ offense has ranked in the top three in the conference. And while many players prioritize scoring the ball, for Bishop's starting point guard, Elizabeth Homan, this statement couldn’t be further from the truth.

Homan, also known as “Bean,” for her small stature at 5-foot-4, led the NCAC last season in assists with 5.8 per game, finishing with 167.

“I think that’s why I’m a point guard, I love it so much,” Homan said. “There’s fun ways to do it. Behind-the-back passes, no-look passes, I love all that stuff.”

Homan, whose jersey number and nickname models after the late NBA great Kobe “Bean” Bryant, said it’s a coincidence the two share the same name. Their games and heights are vastly different.

Homan led the Battling Bishops to the No. 1 ranking offense in the conference during her freshman campaign and last season as they averaged 70 points per game. Despite only playing in eight games her first year due to COVID, Homan was the second assist leader in the conference with 31.

“I like to be a little flashy sometimes, Coach doesn’t always like it,” Homan chuckled. “But I love assists.”

2.) They have a good chance of getting to the NCAA Tournament again

Before last season, the Battling Bishops' drought in the NCAA Division III women’s basketball tournament spanned 14 grueling years.

This changed as they not only made their first playoff appearance but also achieved their first conference tournament championship since the 2008-09 season. They finished the season with an 18-11 record, placing them as the No. 3 seed in the tournament.

However, their record and seeding proved to be no indication or match for opponents in the NCAC tournament.

The Bishops dominated No. 6 seeded Kenyon with a 28-point win in the quarterfinals and followed with a 79-66 victory over No. 2 DePauw in the semifinals. Their next challenge was No. 2 Oberlin in the conference finals.

A back-and-forth game ensued, but Ohio Wesleyan pulled away in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter with a 79- 71 win, sealing a conference championship and a ticket to the NCAA tournament.

Although the Bishops lost in the first round, Homan strongly believes they have a chance to advance next year.

“Our new goal is the Sweet 16 and the NCAA Tournament,” Homan said. “We set some high standards and some high goals, but I know that we have a team that can achieve it if we all trust each other.”

3.) Kasey Schipfer is returning.

Many people consider Schipfer to be the best player in the NCAC conference.

Last season Schipfer became the first player, either on the men’s or women’s side, to win both Player of the Year and Top Defensive Player in the NCAC.

“Almost every day, if not every day, I was shooting after practice and before practice,” Schipfer said. “Putting in the extra time with my team watching film. It’s taken a lot of work, but it was definitely well worth it.”

Schipfer, who was a second-team All-NCAC selection last season, improved both her offensive and defensive game during the offseason. She led the conference in scoring at 18.2 points per game and ranked in the top six in multiple categories, including rebounding, assists and steals.

A talented athlete who lettered in three sports during high school, Schipfer said since her freshman year her personal goal was to win Player of The Year and All-Conference. She now has her eyes set on one of the highest individual titles given to a U.S. athlete.

“I’ve always had a dream of being an All American,” she said.

4.) They are looking for a new Fab 5.

The Fab Five was a group known to many that changed the landscape of college basketball.

Nearly three decades ago, the Michigan Wolverines team led by Jalen Rose and Chris Webber became the first team in NCAA history to compete in the championship game with all freshman starters.

It’s an iconic name that former Bishop star Cierra Joiner and Molly Delaney gave the starting lineup that included Kasey Schipfer, Lauren Denison, Elizabeth Homan, Delaney and Joiner because the five started alongside each other for two years.

Now with only three members of the Fab Five remaining, who will step into the other spots?

Joiner said both Payton Kutz from Colorado and Graci Semptimphelter from Tennessee are rising sophomores. Kutz led her home state in assists, ranking 19th nationally, while Semptimphelter averaged 5.9 points off the bench last season for the Bishops.

Ohio Wesleyan had no seniors on their roster last season, so it will likely bring back a strengthened roster filled with a bunch of hungry freshmen looking to cement their legacy.

5.) OWU gets it done in the classroom.

For Lobdell, the transition gap from athletics to academics is highly rewarding, and it’s something she looks for in all her players.

“I know that student-athletes are coming to Ohio Wesleyan for their education first and to be a student-athlete,” Lobdell said. “So that kind of drives who we recruit.”

This spring the Ohio Wesleyan women’s team averaged a 3.56 GPA, with four players averaging a 4.0 GPA including Kelsey Wolfe, Madison Schumacher, Lauren Gerber and Kasey Schipfer.

This past February three Bishops received academic All-District Recognition from the College Sports Communicators including Denison, Homan and Schipfer. Schipfer said while Lobdell trusts the team to complete their schoolwork, she remains an integral part of their academic accomplishments.

“She’s very very interested in our success,” Schipfer said. “So, I think that’s made a big difference”

6.) They don’t dwell on the negative.

Amateur athletes are highly praised for their athletic ability on the court, but for Lobdell, the mental well-being of players is just as important.

Lobdell, a licensed health coach, said she implemented a mindset training system into the Ohio Wesleyan women’s basketball program six years ago. Since then, it’s now evolved into “Lift and Learn” and has extended far beyond the Battling Bishops.

She now offers training to individuals, small groups, coaching staff and teams. Joiner said even though she no longer plays for the team she still uses the tools she learned during mental training.

“A lot of people have negative self-talk,” Joiner said. “So we learned how to get over that obstacle, learned how to have true inner confidence in yourself and in your teammates which helped the team as a whole.”

Lobdell said since adding the training she’s seen a major difference in her players both on and off the court.

“I always talk about the person first,” Lobdell said. “If you can help the person then you can help the professional, you can help the student, and you can help the athlete.”

7.) About that dance move.

Lobdell said the players keep her in the loop on the latest TikTok trends.

“They’re the ones that keep me young and keep me updated with most of them,” she said.

Homan said the team loves dance parties in the locker room and they try their best to get their coaches involved. But for Lobdell, it takes a little bit to get it out of her, she said.

Holman said the team made an agreement that if they were to win the conference championship, then Lobdell would have to do the “Griddy.” The Bishops won their conference, but Lobdell still has not attempted the popular dance move.

“It will happen sooner than later, but I have to be fully prepared for it,” Lobdell said.

8.) They are family from the start

The moment recruits' step onto campus, they are a part of the OWU family.

Players on the women’s basketball team give recruits tours around campus and into the dining halls, sometimes grabbing something to eat if there’s enough time. Denison said having these tours come from players instead of administrative figures helps build a stronger connection with recruits because they can relate to the athletic lifestyle.

“You are them,” she said. “Just three years older.”

Once the season begins, Denison said the team spends most of their time around each other so much so that the term “family” no longer serves as a core value, but the foundation of their basketball program.

The Bishops are also heavily involved within their community. They serve as mentors for children who are enrolled in the program Big Brothers Big Sisters and volunteer at the Delaware Free Store where one of their teammates' mothers works.

9.) Driven by a new set of core values

The Bishops are guided by seven new core values each season. Homan said she believes this is why the program has been so successful.

Before the first practice of every preseason, Denison said the team gathers together at Lobdell’s home for a cookout where they discuss and pick their seven core values of the season, called the 7 C’s.

She said it provides them a chance to see what the team shares in common with incoming transfers and freshmen who flooded their roster last season, filling up eight positions including Alexandria Magers, Mia Guscoff, Kelsey Shiley, Katie Glowacki, Kendall Dieringer and Kelsey Adelman.

“Every season they’re different, because every team is different,” Denison said.

Homan said Lobdell puts the team into small groups during the summer and assigns them a book to read that encompasses building a healthier mindset. This year's assignment is “Habits That Make A Champion" by Allistair McCaw.

10) The guy who brought Jackie Robinson to the Majors went to OWU.

Jackie Robinson is a name many know.

But without Branch Rickey, a 1904 Ohio Wesleyan University graduate, the legacy of Robinson, a Baseball Hall of Famer, may have been different.

After a decorated baseball career at Ohio Wesleyan, Rickey moved back and forth between playing professional baseball and coaching at his alma mater. Like the Bishops, his moral principles guided him far beyond his playing career and into his work off the field.

Throughout his time in baseball, Rickey experienced racism as many teams declined to compete against Ohio Wesleyan and hotels denied them access to rooms. He would later become the president and general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, propelling him to make a move that would break color barriers.

In 1945 he signed Jackie Robinson, the first African American to play Major League Baseball in the modern era. Rickey revolutionized baseball, creating the farm system of minor leagues while paving the way for Robinson and hundreds of black athletes after him.

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