With the air cooling and leaves falling, basketball season is right around the corner. Practices have already begun at Olivet College, and the men’s and women’s teams are gearing up for the next four months of tough competition.
Sam Hargraves, head coach of the men’s team, said the first few months of the season will be focused on preparing his team for Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) play, which begins in January.
“We feel we have 12-13 guys that can compete for playing time and all have the ability to contribute in games. We’ll have to figure out in November and December what our best rotations are,” Hargraves said.
Coach Hargraves mentioned seniors Derrick Johnson, Dane Vos, Ryan Robinette, Tevin Ali, and Noah Wiswary as experienced players to keep an eye on. Sophomores Ryan Bart, Dylan Hignite, Lo Upshaw, Nolan Finkbeiner, and Mason Wichman are also key returners for the team.
“One new addition is freshman Haidyn Garrison. He has a chance to help us right away with his unique size and strength,” Hargraves said.
The Comets are looking to make the MIAA tournament and win their first conference championship since they shared the title with Hope College in the 2017-18 season.
“We just want to be the best team we can be and play as hard as we can, but we have high expectations for ourselves this year, which leads us to setting our goals for nothing less than to be the conference champions,” Robinette said.
Hargraves said that anything can happen once the team solidifies its place in the MIAA tournament. He said that as a coach, his goal is still the same each season. “My goal never changes, and that is to try our best every day to be a little better than the day before.”
The men’s basketball team begins its season on Nov. 11 at 6 p.m. The Comets will face the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford in the Ron Linhart Memorial Classic hosted by Heidelberg University.
The women’s team is also looking to improve this year while facing fierce MIAA competition. Head coach Peter Sabiiti said his team will rely on both returning and new players to succeed. “We have a core group returning this year and a bunch of great incoming players that are going to really help us. This year will definitely be a group effort,” Sabiiti said.
Senior forward Rachel Swartz, who broke Olivet’s single-season block record in 2021, said she is looking forward to avenging losses against MIAA rivals.
“I’m excited to play both Alma and Albion. Those two teams have previously been the closest games and closest competitors in the past few years. But this year it’s exciting because we have the numbers and talent to compete and hopefully beat those bottom level teams we’ve lost to in previous seasons,” Swartz said.
Although last year was tough for the Comets, Coach Sabiiti said he is hopeful for the team’s upcoming season, and that “the future is bright.” Coach Sabiiti said the team’s biggest objective is simple: compete.
“I would say our goal this year is to be more competitive in all the games. Our conference is very competitive nationally, so if we can compete in games, I will be very happy.”
Swartz echoed her coach’s thoughts, saying, “We want to win more games than we did in the past few years. It’s definitely more about being confident in the talent we have and playing our hardest each game.”
The women will take the court first on Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. in an exhibition game against Grace Christian University.
Images courtesy of OlivetComets.com