Lady Toppers ready to show off experience

HERALD FILE PHOTO Senior forward Arnika Brown grabs a rebound over Arkansas State forward Lyndsay Schlup during the second half of a Feb. 10 game at Diddle Arena. Brown grabbed 24 rebounds during WKU’s 83-78 win over Arkansas State.

Cole Claybourn

Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles said fans may not see any special entrance from her at this year’s  Hilltopper Hysteria like they have in years past.

There will be no entrance on a Harley or from the rafters, or even rapping for the fans.

“I don’t think they’ll let me put a John Deere tractor in Diddle (Arena), either,” Cowles joked on Wednesday.

But what they can expect to see is a mature team that’s ready to start the season off by having fun, she said.

“Hysteria is just another opportunity for them to play, and the players love to play,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun for them, and they get to go out there and play against each other.”

Part of the maturity that Cowles noted comes from age, as the Lady Toppers have eight upperclassmen.

The other part has come from what she’s seen in practice, which began on Oct. 7, she said.

Because of a new rule implemented by the NCAA in April, women’s basketball teams are allowed to begin practice after 5 p.m. on the date that is 40 days before their first regular-season game.

“I’ve seen a level of focus that has by far out-done our last two seasons,” Cowles said. “When you have that kind of focus, I think it shows maturity, and that’s something I really like about this team.”

With a week of practice under the Lady Toppers’ collective belt, senior forward Arnika Brown said the players feel a little more comfortable heading into tonight’s events.

And while the teams wants to build on what they’ve done in the first week of practice, Brown said the most important thing is to have fun with it.

“We try to have fun, but we also don’t want to go out there and look clueless,” she said. “We want to work on some of our game plans and show the fans what they’ll see this season.”

Many of the players, such as Brown, have gone through several Hilltopper Hysterias in their careers at WKU.

But for the three freshmen on the team, it’s their first chance to experience the atmosphere they’ll see on game days.

Cowles said this will help to relieve any pressure the team might feel early in the season.

Freshman guard Ellen Sholtes said she’s heard plenty about Hysteria and the game atmosphere from the upperclassmen. Now Sholtes is ready to experience it for herself.

“I’m pretty excited,” she said. “I’ve heard all about their dances, so I guess the freshmen have to come out and make it memorable as well. I don’t know what I’m going to do yet, though.”

The Lady Toppers will be looking to build on last season when they won 21 games but failed to reach the NCAA Tournament, eventually being knocked out by Illinois in the first round of the National Invitational Tournament.

Brown said tonight is a good place to start that transition.

“Practice has been great so far, and it’s been really good for our freshmen because they have been taking in a lot of stuff,” she said. “But we’re going to be ready when it’s time to play ball.”