Updated March 12 at 9:36 p.m.
Although the women’s basketball team didn’t see a huge jump in the win column this year, head coach Stephanie Glance said she believes that the Lions have made some serious progress.
But that doesn’t mean she’ll be satisfied with a 6-22, 3-11 Ivy record moving forward.
“My patience has run thin with baby steps. But keeping everything in perspective, this season was necessary. There is no way you can come in, take over a situation, and completely do anything but baby steps,” she said. “Now we need to take a bigger jump.”
The baby steps start with individual improvement. Although Glance did not point to any single player as emblematic of the overall improvement seen, she said junior forward Amara Mbionwu has made the biggest individual jump. Mbionwu, who was Columbia’s top rebounder this season, will likely return next year as a key player, especially with the graduation of forward Courtney Bradford.
“We went from a player who would shoot it across the backboard most times to one who’s leading us in field goal percentage, and she leads us in rebounding,” Glance said of Mbionwu. “It’s something I’ve said to her and it’s something I’ve said to the team, and I think they would all agree.”
Moving forward, Glance said she hopes the fact that players have to earn their roles on the team will help team members elevate their respective levels of play even further—even team leaders like Mbionwu, sophomore guard Sara Mead, and first-year forward Tori Oliver.
“Players need to be challenged by each other. That keeps everybody sharper,” Glance said. “We now have a much higher standard for the program and we really want to make great strides toward that standard next season.”
Better players and concerted efforts to address “the underlying issues of a losing culture,” as Glance put it, helped the team improve week to week.
Glance has cited pairs of games that the Lions played against Ivy rivals as indicative of this improvement. At home, the Lions fell to Yale by 25 and Brown by 22, but on the road three weeks later, the Light Blue lost to Yale by only five and knocked off Brown by seven.
Glance, though, singled out the games against Harvard.
The Light Blue sports a 2-55 all-time record against the Crimson, and in the final game of the 2013 season, Columbia lost to Harvard, 71-26. But this season, it was a different story. Columbia was blown out by 35 in Cambridge, but a few weeks later at Levien, the Lions led the Crimson at halftime, and though they lost, the margin was only 13.
“To have the same team, within the same season, to play them as differently as we did and more competitively is a credit to the improvements that this program has made in a year,” Glance said.
The Lions, though, did not fare as well in rematches against Dartmouth and Princeton. A six-point win in Hanover on Feb. 15 turned into a seven-point loss at Levien on Feb. 28, and a 20-point loss at home on Feb. 7 turned into a 44-point drubbing at Princeton on March 8—indicating more work remains to be done.