It usually takes a coach a couple of years to make their mark. The first year is typically a transition one, with coaches oftentimes coming in so late they don’t get a chance to bring in their own players.
In that case it’s probably three years before you see the fruits of their labor.
Well Kristen Dowling works quickly, very quickly. She took the helm of the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps women’s program last year and fielded a team with just eight players. The Athenas went 9-16 overall and tied for sixth in the SCIAC.
But they showed considerable improvement at the tail end of the season. It was a sign of things to come.
This year all the team did was go 24-3, win the SCIAC regular season and win the postseason tournament to earn the conference playoff bid. It will be the first postseason appearance for the Athenas since 2004.
Dowling admits it was even beyond her high expectations.
“You don’t necessarily put a number on wins or a finish but I thought we could win more games than we’d lose and that would be a good step,” she said.
The scarey part for SCIAC foes is that it still isn’t team, completely recruited by Dowling. They’ll get better ever year as they adjust to her system and style of coaching.
And it’s still a relatively young team with just six seniors, the most notable being guard Madeline Barnes.
Now it’s on to the playoffs. The Athenas have drawn a road game with defending NCAA Division III national champion Depauw on Friday for its opener.
They’re a huge underdog. But no one could have expected them to be in this position, this soon.
Looking at the youth of this team, the coaching staff and a new facility on the horizon, this could be a juggernaut in the making!