Senior guard Sydney Wilson shoots for three while the Lady Bears bench celebrates behind her. 

The Missouri State Women’s Basketball team prepared for the new season with a nearly entirely new group of players and a new coaching staff. New head coach Beth Cunningham has seen and has been pleased by the amount of new growth day to day. 

Cunningham has been able to establish a strong bond with the team consisting of both newcomers and returners while being new to the team herself. She and the team have been able to accomplish a lot in a short period of time. 

Last year, the Lady Bears fell short for the MVC Championship, but still made an appearance in the NCAA against Florida State and Ohio State. The team, as of October 18th, were ranked 6th in the MVC preseason poll. 

With where the Lady Bears were ranked, Cunningham has seen a broad glimpse of the team over the past few months, from freshman players, transfers and returners that does not correlate with the MVC preseason poll results. 

“Regardless of what people think and how the chips may fall, I always go in just trying to be the best that we can possibly be,” Cunningham said. "All preseason polls are what people think about you right now and to be honest, I don’t think people know much about us.” 

From the months of conditioning gaining closer to the beginning of the season, Cunningham has seen how the team has been able to adapt with each other and with the new setting revolving around being a Lady Bear. 

Cunningham truly wants to be able to do whatever it may be to make her team feel comfortable individually and as a team, during conditioning and games. 

“I’ve been really pleased with how they’ve been able to pick it up, we’ll certainly have to adjust and adapt as games go,” Cunningham said. “We’ll still be trying to figure out our identity from game to game as we’re evolving. I’m not hesitant to be creative and do some other things. Whatever we need to do to put our kids in the best situation possible is what we’ll do.” 

From the outcome of the MVC preseason poll, junior guard Paige Rocca doesn’t think their preseason ranking defines who they are as a team and as individuals on the paint and believes that the unexpected is to come.

“You can’t really blame anybody for that,” Rocca said. “We have a new coaching staff, half of our team is new, but I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people. “We have a lot of confidence in ourselves and I think it’s going to be a good year.”

The team, including senior guard Sydney Wilson, might have been unpleased with the initial outcome of the preseason poll, but her and the team have intentions on taking that result and incorporating it into their performance on the court to change voters vote.

“It adds more fuel to the fire,” Wilson said. “They’re going to doubt us, so we’re going to prove them wrong. We’re just going to go into every single game and kick a**.” 

The Lady Bears and Cunningham have all been able to use all the time they have together, on and off the court, to get used to the change for the better, resulting in the current relationship the overall team has been able to construct and bring into the upcoming season.

“I think they’re confident, I don’t want their confidence to be shaken when things don’t go perfectly, individually or as a team,” Cunningham said. “I’m anxious to play, but if I feel like I’m prepared, I’m not nervous.”

The Lady Bears played their first game of the season against the University of Missouri at home on Monday, Nov. 7 at 6:00 p.m.


Follow Jade Morrow on Twitter, @JadeMorrow15

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