Women’s basketball season preview: On the rise

The women’s basketball team takes on Franklin College on Oct. 30 at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Photo by Claire Runkel

SAWYER GOLDWEIN | SPORTS REPORTER | sgoldwein@butler.edu 

Things are turning around quickly for the women’s basketball team. After a 10-win improvement last season, the Bulldogs have their sights set on reaching new heights during the 2023-24 season. 

Second-year head coach Austin Parkinson returns three of his top four scorers to help him continue to guide Butler in the right direction, including junior forward Sydney Jaynes. Jaynes is excited about Butler’s new direction heading into this season. 

“With our new coaching staff, we did a complete 180 last year,” Jaynes said. “I expect [improvement] to happen again. I expect to see it even more with Coach P bringing in a bunch of new pieces.” 

Those “new pieces” include sophomore forward Lilly Stoddard, a former four-star recruit who transferred in from Purdue, junior point guard Ari Wiggins, who was previously at the University of Michigan, and graduate wing Rachel Kent. This year, Kent reunited with Parkinson who coached her for one year at IUPUI. 

Kent and Parkinson are not the only Bulldogs with ties to IUPUI. Two of Parkinson’s three assistant coaches were previously stationed across town, as was senior wing Anna Mortag. Kent is enjoying the chance to have familiarity amidst a new environment. 

“I think it’s really great being back with them,” Kent said. “This program has a lot of good things that Coach P’s built upon that we didn’t have at IUPUI, so I’m really excited for that.” 

With five seniors and one graduate student on the roster, experience is one strength Butler certainly has. The Dawgs expect maturity to help not only during the season, but in the time leading up to games. The team of veterans is having no trouble building chemistry amongst their new players. 

“We’ve been getting along well and figuring each other out very quickly, and figuring out the offense that we’re running,” Jaynes said. “I think it’s going really well so far.” 

The team’s experience should continue to manifest itself in the form of success once the season gets underway. The battle-tested Bulldogs are ready to lead their younger teammates this season. 

“I think experience plays a huge role just because of the way you can lead on the floor, and you can help the younger players get into positions that help them score and help the team score,” Kent said. 

One of those younger players is first-year guard Karsyn Norman, who is expected to make an impact in the backcourt. Norman and Wiggins’ quickness and defensive tenacity should allow Butler to get out and run on the fast break often. 

“Coach P wants to really push the ball, especially on defense with me and Karsyn,” Wiggins said. “Having that ability to pick up full court is going to open the floor for a lot of people, but being able to go downhill and kick for our shooters [like sophomore guard Jordan Meulemans] and Rachel will be another piece.” 

Parkinson’s team has the players to do more than just play fast, though. Butler’s depth and experience should provide them with the versatility to adjust their play style to the situation and opponent they’re facing. The team can push the pace with Wiggins and Norman, play inside-out through Jaynes or focus on their shooters like Kent and Mortag. Wiggins believes that having lineup flexibility should help the Bulldogs throughout the year. 

“We can be really big; we can be really fast,” Wiggins said. “I think we’re gonna have a lot of depth. There’s a lot of excitement with this team right now.” 

The Bulldogs will look to channel that excitement into a win on Nov. 6, as they open their season with a trip to Ames, Iowa. Once there, they will face a big test against Iowa State, who secured a fifth seed in the NCAA Tournament last season. 

While the Cyclones represent a tough non-conference matchup for Butler, the team is not approaching the game differently than they would any other game. They are excited for the opportunity the bout presents. 

“With all these new pieces, it’s gonna definitely be a learning experience to see how each of us takes the game this year,” Jaynes said. “We’re just gonna learn from it and get better.” 

The Dawgs’ non-conference schedule also includes a trip to Madison, Wisconsin to face off with the Wisconsin Badgers and a home tilt against Vanderbilt. They will then begin their Big East schedule against No. 2 ranked UConn. Their only other ranked matchups will come in the form of two games against Creighton

“We’re gonna throw something at the Big East that they didn’t see before — that Butler hasn’t shown,” Wiggins said. 


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