The new year resolution for the Dixie State University women’s basketball team must have been to start collecting wins because the Trailblazers did just that to begin 2017.
After beginning the 2016-17 season 0-11, DSU traveled to California for a three-game road trip. The Trailblazers battled Pacific West Conference foes and earned its first and second wins of the season in two of those three games.
“This trip taught us a lot,” assistant coach Brennon Schweikart said. “We put ourselves in position to win, and we learned to trust the process and trust the direction our team is headed.” DSU played at Fresno Pacific University Jan. 3. The Trailblazers took an 8-7 lead in the first quarter after junior forward Lisa VanCampen made a pair of free throws.
DSU maintained the lead for the majority of the game thanks to a career night for junior center Ashlee Burge, who scored 26 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.
“Our plan was to get it to [Burge] inside,” said freshman guard Ali Franks, an exercise science major from Redding, California. “She did a great job of taking what the defense gave her.”
After building a 13-point lead in the third quarter, DSU found itself down 57-56 after a 9-0 run by FPU. Unlike games earlier this season, however, when DSU failed to close the game strong enough to collect a victory, the Trailblazers were able to close out the Sunbirds.
DSU regained the lead for good with just over five minutes to play thanks to a driving layup by junior forward Shelby Kassuba.
“We worked really hard, and it was a lot of fun out there,” said Burge, a business major from Riverton. “We play so much better when it’s fun out there for us. And winning one was awesome.”
Of the team’s 26 field goals, 21 were assisted. When over 80 percent of made baskets are assisted on and the ball is shared like that, the probability of winning increases.
Looking to build off the first win of the season, DSU traveled to the Academy of Art University Thursday. The game went nothing like the game against FPU.
For all of the first quarter and half of the second quarter, the Trailblazers and the Urban Knights were neck and neck. Strong plays from Burge and redshirt sophomore guard Tramina Jordan helped DSU take its final lead at 16-15 midway through the second quarter.
AAU then went on a demoralizing 21-3 run to close out the first half. The Trailblazers were outscored 17-7 in the third quarter by the Urban Knights.
Senior guard Cassidy Carrillo sank consecutive 3-pointers in the fourth quarter as DSU continued to battle. The Trailblazers eventually lost 75-50. Carrillo had a career-high nine points, and Jordan led the way with 16 points of her own.
“We were just shocked [after the game],” Franks said. “Nothing worked for us out there; no one was feeling it.”
Franks said losing by 25 was “tough emotionally”, especially after earning the first win of the season earlier in the week. The coaching staff encouraged the players to rest up and finish the road trip off with a victory.
The road trip concluded Saturday at Notre Dame de Namur University with the Trailblazers seeking a second win and revenge for an overtime loss to the Argonauts earlier in the season. Entering the game, DSU was 1-6 in conference play, while NDNU was 4-1.
DSU opened up strong in the first quarter. Burge scored 12 of the team’s 22 points, helping give DSU a 22-16 lead.
The Argonauts fired back, outscoring the Trailblazers 22-9 in the quarter and holding Burge scoreless. The third quarter was back and forth as NDNU held a 49-43 lead after Franks buried a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
DSU went on a 14-5 run to start the fourth quarter, taking a 57-55 lead. The game continued to go back and forth until it was tied 61-61 with 51.7 seconds left to play. The Argonauts drew a foul and hit both free-throws with 27.4 seconds left taking a 63-61 lead.
Freshman guard Jaden Gonzales then drained a clutch 3-pointer to take a 64-63 lead with under 20 seconds left.
NDNU could not retake the lead, and DSU pulled off the 66-63 win following a couple of free throws.
“We did a great job of battling out there as a team,” Schweikart said. “Winning road games is tough, but we found a way to get it done.”
DSU averaged 15 assists per game as a team during the two wins, but only had 10 in the lost to AAU. Schweikart said that as the team has begun to play as a team rather than individuals, it has helped spark this awakening for the Trailblazers.
“We did not do anything much different these past few games,” Schweikart said. “We just played together and did a great job of sharing the ball which made it more fun [for the girls].”
At 2-12 overall and 2-6 in PacWest conference play, DSU returns home to play against Dominican University of California Wednesday at 5 p.m inside Burns Arena.