Doyle made at least one three-pointer in every game and was one of three Muhlenberg players to break the previous school record for three-pointers in a season. The Mules made 66 more three-pointers than their opponents attempted.
Photos by billjohnsonphotos.com
Of the 1,022 NCAA women’s basketball teams, none scored more points per game or made more three-pointers per game than Muhlenberg in 2003-04. Employing a unique, up-tempo style, the Mules set more than 30 school records and broke five NCAA Division III records. Sophomore forward Lacie Smith offers this insider’s look at a system that could be described in many ways, but could never be called boring.
JANUARY 5, 2004
The locker room was virtually silent. The only sound that could be heard was that of heavy breathing of our team as we gasped to catch our breath. The excitement in the room was so thick you could almost touch it, yet no one said a word. The screaming cheers that filled the gymnasium just seconds before were silenced and replaced with anxious smiles.
Satisfied stares throughout the small room showed indications of flashbacks from the game. The way we ran up and down the court scoring quick points was the ideal situation that our team had been striving to reach all year. The ball just seemed to land in our hands as we racked up 35 steals for the game and our shots were somehow guided right through the basket as we set the Muhlenberg scoring record with 116 points.
The normal postgame locker room before Coach Ron Rohn enters is filled with a collective assessment of the game. It is typical for several team members to voice their opinions about what our team could have done more effectively. However, with this particular contest against Washington College, no opinions were voiced and the silence was nothing less than eerie.
Our team had finally come together, and everyone knew it. It was not a new thing for us to score in the hundreds; we had been doing it since the first game of the Scotty Wood Tournament. Yet the Washington game was much different than the games prior. The game felt so natural; so unrealistically fun.
Coach entered the room much earlier than usual and he was carrying, in both hands, our water bottles. He entered quietly, shut the door behind him, and said, “If you play like that for the rest of the year, I’ll carry your water bottles everywhere.”
Although the Muhlenberg women’s basketball team was very successful in the first two years under the direction of Coach Rohn, two consecutive playoff losses provoked him to start thinking. Imitating the style of play of a small Division III Iowa men’s team, Grinnell College, he introduced us to an entirely new approach to the game of basketball.
The Grinnell style consists of an up-tempo, relatively chaotic type of play. Coach Rohn modified the basic principles that Grinnell coach David Arsenault invented 15 years earlier to fit the Muhlenberg personnel.
The idea is basic but extreme: Run the fast break and get quick shots. Take all open three-pointers. Trap all misses. Hard press all made shots. Force turnovers. Take chances. Heighten the intensity of the game. Cause chaos. Never stop running.
Most of us now admit that at the time of Coach’s explanation of the style, we did not really know all the components. We were blind to its complexity, but followed Coach and his confidence in the method’s potential success. It is inaccurate to say that we did not question his idea, yet we knew his intentions were good and believed that he would not lead us astray.
At first, changing from a conventional style of basketball was very difficult. Our team would often question the potential of the system. Shooting over 40 threes a game, pressing all over and having one-minute substitution patterns took a little getting used to.