AUSTIN MILLER | ASSISTANT SPORTS EDITOR
Similar to Hinkle Fieldhouse, the Butler women’s basketball program underwent vast changes during the offseason. And just like Hinkle, many are anxious to see the impact of those changes when both make their debut this weekend.
After 12 years at the helm of the program, former head coach Beth Couture was let go in the offseason. The Bulldogs now move forward under the direction of Kurt Godlevske, an assistant of Couture’s for the past year.
The changes don’t end there.
The Bulldogs lose two players from last year’s team to graduation and six others left the team as well. All told, just five players who played a game last season remain on this year’s roster, none of which have much starting experience.
Seven players are new to the program in 2014-15, including four true freshmen, two incoming transfers, and one senior volleyball player returning to the basketball court for the first time since high school.
Couple those changes with an improved Big East conference and it doesn’t look like Butler will be much of a factor nationally this season, evident by their finishing in last-place ranking on the pre-season Big East coaches poll. However, Coach Godlevske and his staff said this is a vitally important year nonetheless.
“I think this season is extremely important,” Godlevske said, “not so much in terms of wins and losses, but in marking what we are going to stand for as a program. The climate and culture of the program here is very important to me and bringing in kids with quality character is as well. We’re going to need our returners to teach the rest of the team about the grind of being a college athlete and what that is about.”
With so many players electing not to return after last season, the leadership from the returning players will be of utmost importance. Among those returning to shoulder the load are leading returning scorer and rebounder, senior Ijeoma Uchendu, and junior guards Blaire Langlois and Lexus Murry who both saw action in 30+ games last season.
The tempered expectations have Godlevske and his staff focusing on the basics in order to build a strong foundation.
“As a whole this season we want to make sure our effort level is there,” he said. “We want to get better on a game-by-game basis and even a day-by-day basis. We’ve got to make sure our execution is there on both ends of the floor.”
That sentiment has been echoed by the players.
“Execution is the thing that we’re stressing the most right now,” freshman guard Sydney Buck said. “We’ve got to be the hardest working team every night and we know that.”
Fellow true freshman Nicole Orr repeated the same message, saying “we have to emphasize defense and communication.”
Along with Uchendu, Langlois and Murry, two incoming transfers, 6’2” center Andrianna Moore and sophomore guard Loryn Goodwin will take on important roles. Moore, a JUCO transfer with two years of eligibility remaining, will provide size and strength on the interior. Goodwin will provide a perimeter shooting threat and defensive prowess after setting the school record at North Texas University in three-point field goals and finishing second nationally among freshmen in steals. Goodwin was selected as Sun Belt Freshman of the Year in 2012-13.
The Bulldogs will open exhibition play on Sunday, Nov. 2 at home against Northern Michigan University, and begin regular-season play on Nov. 14 when they travel to take on Valparaiso University.
Regardless of where the program is at now, Coach Godlevske has made his goals for the future very clear from the outset.
“If there’s one thing I learned last year [as an assistant] it’s that we can compete in the Big East,” Godlevske said, “and that’s what we want to do. Compete for championships in the Big East.”