Senior guard Grace Wolhowe is one of only three upperclassmen on the women’s basketball team this season. JIM CELLA.

After coming within touching distance of a MIAC playoff spot last season, the Concordia women’s basketball team looks to solidify a spot in the postseason this year all on its own.

“Last year we tied for the last playoff spot,” senior Grace Wolhowe said. “It was kind of up in the air whether or not we were going to have a spot. Our goal this year is to secure that spot for ourselves and eliminate that question.”

The Cobbers’ 2017-18 MIAC record of 8-10 equaled that of Augsburg and St. Catherine, but the St. Catherine’s Wildcats earned the spot thanks to the tiebreaker. The sixth-place finish wasn’t enough last year, and this year’s group will look to top that mark as they try to bring Concordia back to its status as perennial MIAC contender.

“As a team we go through the process of trying to figure out what our goals for the season are going to be,” 16th-year head coach Jessica Rahman said. “I know the kids have high expectations coming into the season. We are aiming for the MIAC playoffs and hopefully contending for a home playoff berth.”

In order to make that jump back into contention, Concordia will have to snap out of a cold spell that has brought two seasons to forget the past two years. Concordia followed up an 8-17 finish two seasons ago by going 11-14 last year.

Despite the improvement from the previous year, last year’s final record marked the first time the Cobbers put up two straight losing seasons since 1973-74. The past two years have been the only of Jessica Rahman’s 15-year stretch as head coach that Concordia did not finish in the MIAC top four.

With the start of the MIAC regular season right around the corner — the Cobbers open the regular season on Saturday at Hamline — Rahman and company are making final preparations.

“At this point in the season one thing you have to focus on is conditioning,” Rahman said. “This year, the group came in already in great shape, so as we started to do things in practice they were able to get going quickly.”

With seniors Wolhowe and Kirstin Simmons and junior Mira Ellefson as the only upperclassmen on the roster, the 10 new Cobbers will have to make the transition quickly into college basketball.

“They are very athletic,” Simmons said. “That’s what we need from them since we don’t have a lot of upperclassmen coming in. It’s good to have that young blood in the team. We love that they are part of the group.”

That youthful agility will be what the Cobbers need if they are to make their first playoff appearance since 2016, but the primary focus for Rahman early in the year is figuring out how all the pieces fit together.

“First and foremost we want to continue to grow together as a team,” Rahman said. “We can figure out where we’re going to go after that. The upperclassmen have done a good job setting the tone for competitiveness and intensity in practice to help the freshmen figure things out and learn what it takes to be a part of Cobber basketball.”

The Cobbers will face off with St. Benedict in their final preseason game on Tuesday night in St. Joseph, Minn. before traveling to the Twin Cities this weekend for the aforementioned MIAC Opener against the Pipers.

Concordia will play its first home women’s basketball contest on Wednesday, Dec. 12 against the St. Thomas Tommies at Memorial Auditorium. Tip off is scheduled for 5:45 p.m.

 

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