Defending the ranking

Aaron Wolfson
Annabelle de St. Maurice

The women’s basketball team at Washington University is perennially ranked at the top of NCAA Division III.

But this year, it’s the men’s turn.

As both teams have been given the preseason No. 1 ranking, it will be a new experience for the men’s team in trying to live up to the highest ranking.

“Its really exciting to be ranked No.1 going into the season,” said sophomore forward Anthony Hollins. “We worked extremely hard last year to get to this point, and even though we’re coming off a disappointing loss, I feel that we’ve improved and we do deserve our ranking.”

Last year, the Bears finished with a stellar 25-2 record, setting an all time record for victories at WU. The team also posted an undefeated record in the UAA Conference en route to its sixth league title. However, the Bears were defeated in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Division III tournament, and are hungry to get back there this season.

The prognosis is very good. WU returns all five of its starters and highest scorers: seniors Chris Jeffries, Matt Tabash, Dustin Tylka, Joel Parrott, and Jarriot Rook.

With their scoring power, combined with amazing senior leadership and an outstanding supporting cast, it is no wonder that the team is expected to win it all. If that is not enough, the Bears have excellent incoming talent, including 7-foot freshman center Mike Grunst.

WU also has the school’s all time winningest coach, Mark Edwards, manning the bench. Edwards, who is a former WU player, has coached them for the past 21 years, including 18 consecutive winning seasons under his watch. Yet, WU has never been to the Final Four and the pressure will be on this year thanks to their No.1 ranking.

As the team moves forward during the season, their best bet might be to forget about the rankings altogether.

“The preseason No.1 ranking in no way effects our goals for the season,” said junior forward Ryan DeBoer. “We are going to approach every game the same way.”

Another result of the No.1 ranking is that every team on the Bears’ schedule will be even more anxious to topple them.

“The ranking is in a way putting a bulls eye on our backs,” said DeBoer. “Every team in the nation wants to beat the No.1 team, so every game we play this season is going to be tough.”

However, one thing that the No.1 ranking will not affect is the team’s expectations and goals for the season.

“Our goal each year is to win a national championship, so it doesn’t matter if we’re ranked 1st or 149th, our goal will still be the same,” said Hollins. “I think that this ranking will serve as a motivator for every game we play this year.”

Although they don’t want to get caught up in it, the Bears believe their ranking is well-deserved. This season they will try to prove it on the court.

“We just need to go out there and play like we know we can,” said DeBoer. “We will show everyone why we deserve that No.1 ranking. ”

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