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‘A season of ups and downs’: Eilise O’Connor leads the Roos’ recovery

The Roos’ 62-61 home loss to South Dakota State on Saturday came as a disappointment after Thursday’s 62-60 win against North Dakota State.

The good news is that the team’s scoring and defense have improved since the Roos’ 82-47 and 59-48 away losses to those two teams, respectively, on Jan. 3 and 5.

A “season of ups and downs” is how Head Coach Marsha Frese described her team’s play during her first season with UMKC.

Last year, the Roos were the No. 3 seed in the Summit League and made it all the way to the conference final.

This has been a new era for the team after several seniors graduated and Frese took charge.

“The ups and downs have contributed to our team’s youth and inexperience,” Frese said.

Another factor is Kim Nezianya’s injury, which left her out of the competition.

Nezianya has led the team with 6.7 rebounds per game this season.

However, not everything is bad from Frese’s perspective.

“We have seen the growth of these great athletes and that’s what we are focusing on right now,” she said.

Frese said she looks at the season one game at a time.

“Every game matters,” she said. “We don’t focus on how many (games) we have left. Our main goal is to try to stay consistent with our efforts on each one.”

A great environment and camaraderie exists among teammates.

“They are always motivated,” Frese said. “They come in, and they are ready to work. Motivating them has not been a problem; they know what they are here for.”

A bright spot has been junior Eilise O’Connor’s remarkable performance.

O’Connor led the team with 21 points last Thursday, including the winning shot that broke North Dakota State’s tie with three seconds on the clock.

O’Connor led the Roos again on Saturday with 26 points.

The game also included O’Connor’s 1,000th career point.

O’Connor expressed humility and attributed her success on the court to hard work.

“Of course it is a cool career accomplishment,” O’Connor said, “but at the end of the day, team wins are all that matters.”

Frese praised O’Connor’s energy and ability.

“There’s not enough adjectives you can use to describe her,” she said. “Her leadership and how involved she tries to get every single teammate is just a bonus.”

O’Connor, like Frese, is focused on improvement.

O’Connor said she has one goal.

“Continuing to get better. We are not even the team we were three weeks ago,” she said. “I am excited of what is to come.”

O’Connor considers that the great atmosphere in the locker room has improved and it is a positive issue. “If you watch our celebrations you know that there is more than just a teammate environment,” she said.

dmoreno@unews.com

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