By David Wilson
The 2021-2022 women’s basketball season started on an optimistic note, but was soon derailed by injuries, COVID-19 complications, and a lack of chemistry on the court.
The Trojans ended their season 5-22 (4-17 GMAC).
Head coach Chad Hibdon returned his two leading scorers from the shortened 2020-2021 season.
Those women, sophomore Keeley Carter and junior Faith Wilken, were the core pieces of a revamped basketball team that featured several additions.
Freshman Alexa Smiddy, Mattie Buck, and transfer Emma Palmer were all brought in to add talent and depth to the Trojan roster.
The Trojans immediately faced adversity in the pre-season when Mattie Buck suffered a torn ACL during her senior year of high school. Buck was expected to be a consistent contributor off the bench.
Trevecca opened its season with games against several talented programs, including the nationally ranked Drury Panthers and Lee Flames.
“Our team struggled early due to a lack of familiarity and chemistry,” said Hibdon.
Matters became even worse when starters Faith Wilken and Alexa Smiddy both suffered season ending injuries.
Wilken tore her ACL on Nov. 22 against Lee. Just two days later, Smiddy shattered her kneecap against Missouri-St. Louis.
With the loss of three expected contributors, Hibdon was forced to find new pieces to fit into his rotation.
“All three of those women were valuable to our team. So, the youth has [played] a factor in the cohesion and unity. You know, we were young, and were still trying to figure things out,” said Hibdon.
Trevecca has also had to deal with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Players have been sidelined various times throughout the year due to COVID-19 itself or contract tracing.
The Jan. 29 conference game against Malone had to be postponed due to COVID-19 concerns.
“I think we have had the most quarantines and shutdowns over the last two years, so it does slow down the cohesion of the team. It slows down the ability to put in schemes offensively and defensively,” said Hibdon.
Despite these obstacles, the Trojans have continued to improve, and even shown flashes of their potential, he said.
“We have made a lot of progress. We are playing against teams in our conference that have upperclassmen who are coming back for their fifth season. Obviously, we have had some injury issues, but the growth and progress of this team through the obstacles and challenges has been refreshing,” said Hibdon.
Keeley Carter has emerged as the focal point of the Trojan offense in the absence of Wilken and Smiddy.
Carter averaged 17.7 PPG in her 24 appearances this season. She shot 48.9% from the floor and averaged 6.3 REB/G.
“This year I have had to create a lot more off the dribble. I can credit my success scoring the ball this season due to the development of mid-range game. I have tried to shoot more from the outside this year,” said Carter.
In the addition to the perimeter threat of Carter, Emma Palmer has provided an interior presence that the Trojans have lacked in recent years.
Palmer averaged 11.6 PPG while leading the team with a 52.2 FG%. She also led the team with 6.0 REB/G.
“The physicality of our league is very intense. Teams in our conference are very fast and physical. There are also well-rounded teams that have valuable experience. So, I had to [provide] that physical, aggressive level of play for our team,” said Palmer.
Although the Trojans did not qualify for the GMAC conference tournament, Hibdon is excited about the future of his program.
“There is a lot of hope and a lot of promise moving forward. We have some talented players. If we can keep them healthy and connected, we should make a big improvement next season,” said Hibdon.