The Fairleigh Dickinson University women’s basketball team capped off a perfect 25-0 regular season on Saturday by defeating Delaware Valley College.
The Devils were scheduled to play Delaware Valley again on Wednesday in the first game of the Freedom Conference Tournament.
There is no player or coach on the women’s basketball team that is surprised by how great the season was.
Said Coach Marc Mitchell: “We had expectations at the beginning of the season to repeat as conference champions and our bigger picture is to win a national championship. So this season hasn’t been a surprise to anyone on the team.”
The Devils are currently ranked fifth in the nation.
Yet even being ranked in the top five isn’t a big surprise to the Devils.
“We’ve already passed that hurdle of being a top-25 ranked team last year, and our mindset is not on rankings but on winning conference championships and national championships,” Mitchell said. “It’s nice being ranked in the top five, but rankings don’t win you championships.”
Mitchell has coached the only two FDU women’s basketball teams that have been ranked in the top 25.
According to fdudevils.com, Mitchell now has 82 career victories, making him the “winningest coach in Devils women’s basketball history.”
Aside from the team’s perfect record, a big statistic has been the points margin the Devils have beaten their opponents by. The Devils have won their games by an average of 26 points a game. In fact, the Devils have won every game by double digits, with their closest game margin being 10 points early on in the season against the University of Puerto Rico-Bayamon.
“Defensively we have improved a lot from last season,” Mitchell said. “A lot of it has to do with us playing more as a team and some of the new players we have on the roster this season.”
One of those players is forward Shalette Brown, who Mitchell says has had a great impact on the team. Brown is a sophomore who transferred to FDU this season from Montclair State University. She leads the team in rebounds and has brought a great defensive presence to the team in the front court.
Said Brown: “I feel like offense thrives off defense, so my goal is always to get big block rebounds and steals to help set the tone for the defense and help translate that into offense.”
Brown added, “Also, making big plays on defense helps hype up the team to play defense because you have to have a want-to attitude to play defense.”
When Brown decided to transfer to FDU, Mitchell said he knew that he had found the “missing piece” to the team and that “she would help us get to the next level.”
Another player who has stepped up and helped the Devils become undefeated is sophomore forward Rachel Groom. She is currently second on the team in scoring and first on the team in blocked shots.
“I think I have played really well so far this season. My goal is to bring a presence down low offensively and defensively, and I think I have done a good job on that this year and I think it has helped the team win,” Groom said. “I’ve just been making the most of the opportunities I have gotten. Most of the shots I take are layups, so I know that you can’t just miss a layup, you have to make the layup.”
Groom’s impact on the team this season has not been a surprise to Mitchell.
“Rachel has always been an impact player for us,” he said. “I knew when she came here out of high school with her skill set, she would help make us a better team and she has been a great player for us the past two seasons and has become somewhat of a leader on the team as well.”
Guard/forward Kyra Dayon has really helped FDU become a top-ranked national team. Dayon, who was named Freedom Conference Player of the Year last year, has continued her great play this season.
Dayon leads the team in scoring, assists and steals.
“I think we have played really well this season,” Dayon said. “Last season we achieved our goals to win the conference championship and make it to the NCAAs, and this year we have a team that cannot only make the NCAAs but win the national championship.”
In comparison to last year, Dayon’s points-per-game are down, but that doesn’t make her feel that she hasn’t had a better season than last year.
“I’m happy with how I’ve played this season,” she said. “I don’t really focus on myself; I try to focus on getting others on the team involved, and I feel that has made the team play better.”
Dayon added that, with the talent on the team, it has helped make her a better all-around player.
“With the players we have on this team, I don’t have to be a scorer and that has made me become a better passer as well as a better defensive player,” she said.
Mitchell said Dayon “impacts the game in so many different ways. She has proven that she’s just not a scorer but can be a good assist maker at the guard position and this year has proven to being a great defender.”
Before this season, Dayon was ranked as one of the top 24 players to watch by the Women’s DIII News.
The women’s basketball team was not the only one competing in the Freedom Conference Tournament this week. The Devils men’s basketball team was scheduled to take on Misericordia on Wednesday night.