At the bottom of the NBL1 Women’s ladder is a team dreaming of another win before the end of the season.
After a Saturday afternoon home game, the South West Slammers’ women’s locker room was filled with disappointment when basketball coach Robyn Vogel barged into her team.
“That was one of the worst games you ever played,” she said.
More than halfway through the season, the team she went on to coach in May struggled to win all but one of their games.
It was their only game won in three years.
With so much defeat, it was friendship, loyalty and a diehard hope for another win that kept the players coming back.
The Bunbury-based team remained stuck at the bottom of the ladder and only managed to break the losing streak after Vogel joined as coach.
“You play women who have a lot of experience, so you can’t take it easy.”
After coaching some of the team’s players when they were juniors, Vogel felt the calling to coach the Slammers despite the challenges.
She said a mix of factors including the age and limited professional experience of many of the players contributed to the team’s struggle, but it is something she believes they can overcome together.
“I love those girls,” Vogel said.
“But like I said when we started, it’s going to be a long road and we’ve got a lot to work on.”
This year, the team welcomed American forward Tylinn Carter and championship-winning South Australia’s Alex Ciabattani, which has revived hopes.
“There are some talented kids and ladies in that group,” Vogel said.
“We just need to take advantage of it and find it and turn on the switch. Find that switch for each of them to actually get some success.”
Why come back after losing?
Fifteen-year-old Grace Adams has played her first season in the NBL1 this year.
The teenager, who towers above schoolmates at 185 centimeters, is one of the youngest players on the field this year.
She said playing at the semi-professional level was intimidating for hundreds of people, but her team’s camaraderie helped.
“It was scary at first,” Adams said.
For 18-year-old Javene Fitch, who has played for the Slammers since 2018, it has been a similar experience.
Having suffered loss after loss, she considered quitting, but it was her teammates who kept her going.
“It was stressful. I didn’t know how hard it would actually be,” Fitch said.
“Confidence was very low that first season, but along the way I got a lot of support and courage and it just got a lot better.
“We are becoming better friends.”
Fitch, whose favorite basketball player is Perth Wildcats star Bryce Cotton, said her main goal was to become a better player and teammate.
“I know I can be much better than I was,” she said.
A win before the end of the season would also help.
“It could bring so much hope and positivity,” Fitch said.
“It’s just worth it in the end.”