Co-president seniors Sam Olson and Anna Lavella head the women’s club basketball team at NC State. The two have been members of the club since their freshman year, having tried out together.
As the only two seniors on the team with a majority of freshmen and sophomores, the two are exploring the uncharted territory of having two teams.
“This year’s brand new,” Olsen said. “We finally kept enough girls to do two teams. So it’s the biggest we’ve ever been. We have 21 girls on the team. So we have two different teams that go to every tournament.”
The captains try to keep the teams split evenly, but the club allows room for movement and improvement.
“Depending on who can go to the tournaments or how people are performing,” Olsen said. “The teams aren’t set in stone, they fluctuate. We’re like one big team, but then we split up for tournaments.”
Since they have such a large group of women, especially a group that contains an abundance of players that play the same position, being able to split into two teams helps everyone.
“That way people can get playing time and no one’s sitting on the bench bored,” Lavella said. “Also having a lot of guards; we usually have a lot of guards. Having two teams really allows them to play more, and if you need a guard on the other team, they can go.”
Despite the newfound opportunities that having a large program can bring, there are still some obstacles to overcome, such as how to captain two teams.
Lavella shared the plan of assigning a player on the second team a position of leadership during a game, giving them the opportunity to step up into a position of leader or coach if the co-presidents are playing at the same time.
In the past, the team has had success and has even qualified for national tournaments multiple times.
“We went our freshman and sophomore year and we did really well there,” Olsen said. “We got better each year. Last year, we were undefeated, and then this year we finally branched into two teams, so we’ve been on the up rise since we’ve been here.”
Unfortunately, despite being undefeated last season, the team was unable to attend nationals due to funding.
“We didn’t get to go to nationals last year, but we’re hopefully going this year,” Lavella said. “It’s a lot of money because it’s in Kansas so we’re going to try and raise some money and fly out.”
In hopes of preparing for nationals, the team holds practice twice per week at Carmichael Gymnasium and competes in 3-4 tournaments during the fall semester. The team competes in 2-3 tournaments during the spring semester followed by nationals. The team has gone to Virginia, UNC-Chapel Hill, Appalachian State and Clemson to participate in tournaments to prepare for nationals.
“[The tournaments are] similar to AAU or travel ball,” Olsen said. “Saturday’s our pool play. So you play, and, depending on your record, you get placed for bracket in tournament play on Sunday, and then you play for the championship on Sunday.”
When coming up with plays, the co-presidents bring a lot to the drawing board in order to mix things up from the past couple of years.
“We do come up with all of our own plays,” Olsen said. “Some club teams hire out a coach but that doesn’t work for us; we coach ourselves. It’s really me and Anna running it. We come up with all of our own plays, and we ask the girls if they have any from high school.”
Olsen and Lavella see the team’s biggest strength this season as the connections that they have made with one another.
“We all kind of run the team together,” Olsen said. “In the past, there’s been one president and coach that makes all the decisions. But this year we’re really trying to incorporate everybody and we’re all friends, so I think we’re going to be able to continuously improve throughout the season and change things when needed so it’s not one person’s opinion on everything.”
The club begins its season at Clemson on Sept. 28-29 followed by its home tournament. The team’s home tournament is its largest tournament during the fall semester and will be hosted in Carmichael Gymnasium on Oct. 19-20 with free admission for students.