The Girl in the Pressbox: The Start of a New Era

Watching the Ohio women’s basketball team last season was at times—or almost all times—a painful experience. Covering the team, losing game after losing game, and hoping to find some sort of bright spot proved to be a big challenge.

I wanted to find positive story lines and despite the widely held notion that there’s no cheering in the press box—or in that case, on press row—I couldn’t help but silently hope for a win, if only to have a better time writing the recap and talking to more cheerful players and coach Semeka Randal in the postgame press conference.

Toward the end of the season, I was told to just focus my efforts on the baseball team.

New Women's Basketball Coach Bob Boldon

Can coach Bob Boldon turn around the women’s basketball program? (Photo by ohiobobcats.com/Michael Pronzato)

Being around a team enough makes you root for them, if only as people and not as a team. Even if you can put your personal ties to a team aside, you’re always going to root for good people and want to see them succeed. I wanted to see that team succeed.

That’s why it was a pleasant surprise on Sunday to see the Bobcats win their season opener against Xavier.  I don’t know if they can keep winning this season, especially when Ohio struggled to make shots, particularly from the free throw line.

It would be hard to change a culture of losing so suddenly. We’re talking about a team that only won six games last season. If there’s any time to change that culture, though, it’s now. It’s going to come from a young team with six freshmen, who have time to develop together. It’s going to come from a team with a new coach with a history of turning things around—as his record with Youngstown shows. Bob Boldon took a 0-30 team and led them to two double-digit win seasons.

Maybe Boldon is the one who can turn the culture surrounding the women’s basketball team into a winning one. They seem to like playing for him and the energy on the court was way livelier than any I remember seeing last season.

It’s only been one game, so who knows what the season has ahead. Xavier might not be the strongest of opponents, and there were still plenty of problems: Namely, shooting on all fronts and defense, two things Boldon expressed concern about after the game on Sunday.

Four players hit double digits in Sunday’s game. The most notable of all, was sophomore Kiyanna Black who had 35. The team lost Shavon Robinson to graduation this past season, which means the team lost a leader and a lead scorer. I see Black stepping into that role, with a cast of strong players surrounding her.

Kiyanna Black

Sophomore Kiyanna Black scored 35 points off the bench on Sunday. (Photo by ohiobobcats.com/Michael Pronzato)

Junior Mariah Byard seems to have stepped into a role that could be instrumental and mean a lot more playing time.

Beyond that, there are six freshmen who each have the chance to make their mark on a young team. Destini Cooper did it on Sunday with 17 points.

With more performances like this Sunday’s, I think the Bobcats will be able to put their past failures behind them. This might be a new age for the women’s basketball team. It might not be sudden, but in the next few years, we could really start to see the start of something new.

Maybe I’m crazy making these predictions so early in the season and after only one game, but I just know that the team I saw this past Sunday doesn’t even begin to resemble the one I saw this past season.

By the way, actually hearing cheering in the stands was nice too. Black thought so too.

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