After the best NCAA Tournament run in the team’s history last season, Indiana women’s basketball returns all five starters from 2020-21 as the team looks to improve off of last season’s historic success.
With an experienced group returning after last season, the Hoosiers’ already strong on-court chemistry made this offseason different from last year for head coach Teri Moren and her team.
“Any time you have five returners, practice is a little bit different,” Moren said. “I think it’s more efficient right now. We're moving through things a little quicker than we did a year ago, but I do think that they’ve been great examples for these young kids of what it looks like.”
The five starters returning for Indiana — graduate student guards Ali Patberg and Nicole Cardaño-Hillary, senior guard Grace Berger, senior forward Aleksa Gulbe and junior forward Mackenzie Holmes — accounted for 85.6% of the team’s scoring last season.
Having so little turnover at the top of the roster means Indiana can focus on capitalizing off of last season’s success. This year, Indiana will be able to make the necessary changes to progress as a program instead of integrating a new roster.
“Coach Moren says it all the time — focusing on the little details, how hard we cut, how we play defense, how we talk to one another,” Berger said. “Those little details are what makes a difference between being in the Elite Eight, being in the Final Four and being a national champion.”
While returning so many key pieces from last season’s team helps the team’s on-court chemistry, the team is also close off the court.
“There’s no drama. We all get along,” Berger said. “We have a lot of different personalities, but they all really suit each other. We’re all each other's biggest fans and just want success for one another. It’s just a lot of love in the locker room.”
One thing the team has bonded over is a desire to usurp last season’s results and achieve a common set of goals — to win the Big Ten championship, make the Final Four and win the NCAA Tournament.
For this group of Hoosiers, playing their hard-nosed brand of basketball and competing as a team is their key to success.
“We’re competitors, we want to play our best game,” Patberg said. “It’s gonna be great. It’s gonna be a battle every night. That’s gonna help us.”
Not only do the players realize the importance of their bond as teammates, but Moren also believes the bonds both on and off the court are what separates this group from the rest of the pack.
“The chemistry piece of it goes a long way. The love that they have for each other, the admiration,” Moren said. “The ability that they have to be able to sit down and have tough conversations with one another — that’s where it’s at. That’s when you know you have something special.”