PASADENA (Nov. 16, 2018) – The Caltech women's basketball team is coming off its greatest season ever by several different metrics. The 2017-18 season yielded the Beavers' highest scoring output ever, most field goals ever, highest field goal and free throw percentage ever, while holding opponents to their lowest three-point field goal percentage ever and committing fewer turnovers than ever before.
The Beavers will retain their entire roster from the previous season and with a few new additions could provide Head Coach Bridgette Reyes and her staff the opportunity to take another step forward with their high-pressure tactics on both sides of the ball.
"I think maturity is going to make a difference for us," Reyes said. "This is a group that is going to give it their all every time we step out onto the floor."
Caltech will be led by senior captains Elizabeth Eiden (White Plains, N.Y. / Holy Child) and Nika Haleftiras (San Diego, Calif. / Our Lady of Peace). Both players have been positive factors for the Beavers in each of the last three seasons and will be counted on to provide their team meaningful minutes in the starting lineup. Eiden, who stands at 6-foot-3, is on pace to become the Beavers' all-time leading shot blocker, while Haleftiras took a big step forward last season with her perimeter shooting and played a major role in the team's improved defensive metrics. The senior duo, both of whom made instant strides under Reyes' coaching, accounts for half of the team's senior class along with 6-foot-1 forward Madeline Schemel (Westport, Conn. / Staples) and Madelyn Stroder (Springfield, Mo. / Greenwood Laboratory), a positive presence off the bench.
"Our seniors know this is their last season to make an impact," Reyes said. "We're starting to see them put the team on their shoulders and run with it. Nika and Liz' dedication to this program, their teammates and willingness to sacrifice their own personal success to do whatever the team needs is something I appeciate as a coach. They are unselfish, great communicators and work well together because they have different mindsets. There is a real desire for them to succeed."
Junior guard Samantha D'Costa (San Jose, Calif. / St. Francis) returns to the Beavers after leading the team in scoring (15.4) and rebounding (8.4) in 2017-18. The Beavers will be relying on D'Costa to take a step as a faciliator this year, and could become one of the SCIAC's top all-around producers if she can. Sophomore Lauren Suezaki (San Ramon, Calif. / California) brings a similar skillset to the team and had a strong rookie season in spurts. The second-year player could provide the Beavers with a little bit of everything, including underclassmen leadership if she can stay on the court.
Classmate Kali Drango (Lake Oswego, Ore. / Lake Oswego) is coming off a strong sophomore season as the women's soccer team's starting goalkeeper, but like Suezaki will need to stay on the court for her true impact to be felt. Another sophomore, Amy Wang (Colorado Springs, Col. / Pine Creek) showed an ability to shoot the deep ball as a rookie and could provide more of the same in her second season.
"We've had some early adversity as a team," Reyes said. "Taking steps forward in the details and discipline category are what I'm looking for the most. Everybody's going to have an increased role and I hope every one of them takes on the mindset of 'I need to do more this year.'"
Caltech expects to have a few late arrivals to the roster this season, but freshmen Elaine Lin (Brea, Calif. / Troy) and Jillian Reed (Hawthorne, Calif. / Mira Costa) will be able to help immediately. Lin will provide a ball-handling presence off the bench to go along with a three-point shot and Reed's size will come in handy, particularly in future years after the Beavers graduate six-plus footers Eiden and Schemel.
"Elaine comes from a high school with a long basketball tradition," Reyes said. "She has been well coached and has the fundamentals and basketball knowledge we look for. Jillian's effort, energy and her desire to get better and learn are also great traits to have."
For the Beavers to be successful, the team will need more than strong, statistical one-off performances. Strong team showings and encouragement from all areas will aid their success. Reyes has added Savannah Gore and Courtney Keaton to the staff, and both will bring positivity and a strong work ethic for the team to emulate on and off the court.
Overall, this year promises to have its ups, with the potential for the Beavers to improve on last year's eighth-place SCIAC finish if they can stick to their plan and get contributions from more than just their starting five.
"We're going to need everybody to step up," Reyes said. "People will have to take increased roles and do things they're uncomfortable with. We're all going to need to be able to adjust to whatever the team needs to be successful. It takes having the courage to dig deep and this team has shown that early on as we continue to take the next step."
Reyes and the Beavers will open the season on Saturday, Nov. 17 against Bethesda University in Pasadena at 2 p.m.