Trinity preps to tip-off after “Elite” season

Trinity Women’s Basketball returns to action after 2021-22 season

Following a record-setting year for both season and game marks, the team has been ranked in the NCAA Division III preseason, sitting at a no. 5 national ranking in a poll and no. 6 in the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Poll. In addition, Trinity was voted to win the SCAC in a preseason poll, showcasing high outside expectations heading into the new year. The Tigers tied a school record last year with 28 wins and set a school record with 27 straight. However, head coach Cameron Hill stated that, for the most part, it’s just business as usual.

“We appreciate it,” Hill said regarding the preseason mentions and polls. “There’s no question that it’s nice when people recognize that we have a good program. But all those things add to the responsibility you have to take this seriously every day. For us, it’s just normal, and it’s a responsibility we appreciate having. It’s the position we want to be in to have this momentum. A big boost last year was breaking through to the Elite Eight, and you can’t avoid the national radar at that point.”

Maggie Shipley, a senior guard, added to Coach Hill’s message.
“I wouldn’t say there are specific expectations,” Shipley said. “We go into every game with the intention to win, so I’d say that’s our expectation.”

The team returns to the court for the first time since their Elite Eight game last March, marking an eight-month absence between the NCAA Quarterfinal and the upcoming season opener in Birmingham, Alabama. Even with the long offseason, the team is confident in shaking off the rust.

“It’s a lot of faith in the culture that the players will take the offseason seriously,” Hill said. “A lot of the girls are doing important things in their free time regarding internships and travel, so it creates a good balance. Our players are pretty smart and know how to get themselves ready, so it’s not something that we micromanage.”

Despite the freedom the offseason provided, Shipley expressed her satisfaction with returning to campus. “Once we got back in the fall, we got right back into conditioning and lifting, which is super important because it gets us in the right shape. From there, we do pick-up three times a week with the whole team. That’s important because we have a bunch of new girls this year, so it was nice to play with everyone before we started official practices,” Shipley said.

The team features 11 returning players from last year’s roster, with seven new faces coming in as first-years or transfers. In addition to new players, former center Kelly Simmons moved from the court to the coach’s chair, replacing former assistant coach Joe Shotland. The mix of new and returning players has led to a group that Hill says has “real potential” going forward.

“Ten of our 18 players are coming into this with a lot of fresh ideas, which we value. We have strong returning players, and they don’t mess around. They’re competitive, and that’s normal. I think the potential is extraordinarily high,” Hill said.

After a season that saw the team’s second NCAA Quarterfinal appearance in school history, Shipley says that the mentality from last year is still there.

“The intensity we ended last year with is still very much in the gym,” Shipley said. “We have a lot of returning starters, but we also have a lot of new girls that have jumped in and gotten the hang of things. We’ve only had two practices, but I feel like we’re already where we were at the end of last year.”

Last season’s electric playoff run followed a fantastic schedule, and this year is no different. The Tigers will play 25 games in the 2022-23 season, 12 of which will be at home. This year’s edition features a competitive slate of contests, including two rematches against Hardin-Simmons of Abilene, TX from last year’s regular season and playoffs, respectively.

“We have to be as competitive as we can be,” Hill said. “That’s the golden ticket for the NCAA tournament. That’s our main focus. Last season, we went to Hardin-Simmons, and they brought the entire city of Abilene to the game, and I think it backfired because it put too much pressure on them. You don’t get to accomplish what we did if you have weak-minded people.”

The team is gearing up for the season on the 20th anniversary of the program’s first National Championship in the 2002-03 season.

Though she said it isn’t a thought heading into the year, Shipley said, “I would say that if any team could do it, 20 years later, it would be this one.”

“This team is perfectly different from last year,” Hill said, now in his 11th year with Trinity. “It’s going to be fun to watch them figure out how good they are because I think they’re pretty good.”