The Master’s University women’s basketball team has gained momentum at the start of its 2019-20 season, mounting an undefeated record through its first 12 games.
The team is off to a hot start that includes a 3-0 record in the Golden State Athletic Conference, but the momentum has been building over the past few seasons with key players returning this season with plenty of experience under their belts.
“They’ve learned what it takes to win,” said Mustangs coach Dan Waldeck. “They know you’ve got to do the little things every day do the work necessary to be ready to win.”
Master’s returns its top three scorers from last season in Stephanie Soares (566 points), Anika Neuman (378) and Sabrina Thompson (243).
Soares, a sophomore, has already racked up 248 points this year and is also the team’s top rebounder with 142 total boards. She’s averaging a double-double with 20.7 points per game and 11.8 rebounds per game.
Soares has improved her own game but is focused on the bigger picture. For her, that’s advancing farther than the quarterfinals of NAIA Division 1 Women’s Basketball National Championship, which is where the Mustangs ended their season last year.
“It’s been on my mind for quite a while now,” Soares said. “Ever since our first game, one of our goals is always to have a championship mentality. So whatever game we’re playing, we still have to have that championship mentality so once we get there we’re ready to play.”
Soares will have Hannah Ostrom by her side this season after the senior guard spent most of last season recovering from an ankle injury.
Ostrom is currently the second-leading scorer behind Soares with 144 points and the second-leading rebounder with 75. She’s averaging 11.8 points per game and has sunk 44.7% of her 3-pointers this season.
“I think just having time to play together, like with each game,” Ostrom said of the biggest difference in the team this year. “The longer you have together, obviously, like, the more you’re gonna learn about each other and about basketball. I think it shows and the experience gives you confidence with each game we get better.”
Sabrina Thompson, a Valencia High School product, also returns at point guard for her senior year with TMU. With 45 assists so far this season, Thompson has gained experience as a starter in all three seasons leading up to this one.
“I love playing with Sabrina. She’s a perfect point guard,” Ostrom said. “She brings an intensity that we definitely need. She has a fiery personality on the court, but she’s also super loving as well and she’s confident, and so that gives me confidence in the rest of the team, too, because she’s the one who’s handling the ball.”
The Mustangs bring four freshmen aboard, including former Santa Clarita Christian School and Hart High School guard Kaleigh Moss.
Caitlin Monten has been making an early impact on the team at forward. Monten is averaging 9.9 minutes per game — the most of any freshman — and is averaging 4.7 ppg.
“The freshman group as a whole has embraced that ‘I’m gonna get better every day so that when it’s my time, I’m ready,’” Waldeck said.
After the holiday break, Master’s returns to its home court for the Jersey Mike’s Classic. The Mustangs play Olivet Nazarene University, the No. 19 team in Division 2, on Saturday, Dec. 28 before taking on the University of Alberta on the following Monday.
GSAC play resumes on Saturday, Jan. 4 with a game against Hope International University.
Waldeck said that physical conditioning will be an emphasis after returning from the break. He already has confidence in the mental tenacity that his team has developed.
“Especially the last month since we’ve hit the season,” Waldeck said. “I think they’ve really embraced what it means to be left a legacy.”