Rewarding start to career: Hoyt’s Huskies make it to GLIAC semifinals in first season

HOUGHTON – While the Michigan Tech women’s basketball season came to an end more than a week ago, head coach Sam Hoyt is not complaining. Sure, the first-year coach would like to be playing in the post season but that is sports.

Instead, she is reflecting on a season that she sums in one word: rewarding.

“It was an rewarding year,” Hoyt said. “We went through a lot of challenges and it was good to see the girls overcome a lot of adversity.”

The challenges and adversity included injuries to a handful of key players. These included the losses of freshman standout Jordan Ludescher and junior guard Bailie McGirk. Both went down early on in the season.

However, as injuries put some players on the bench, others stepped up and took over. The Huskies ended the year on top of the GLIAC North with a record of 21-9 overall and 16-4 GLIAC. Equally impressive was the fact that the team put together an 11-game winning streak.

Four Huskies received post-season GLIAC honors. Junior Abbie Botz was named First Team All-GLIAC. Senior Elizabeth Kelliher and sophomore Cassidy Trotter were selected for Second Team All- GLIAC, and freshman Ellie MacKay was honored as the GLIAC Freshman of the Year.

Hoyt noted that such accolades only came with tremendous hard work by each of her players. As a first-year coach, she only had video of her players when she took over the reigns in May of last year. However she witnessed, first hand, plenty of change throughout the basketball season.

“I was pleasantly surprised with most of our players,” she said. “They grew in their confidence and ability to score. I saw tremendous growth, not just on the basketball court, but they grew as persons.”

She cited the Huskies 60-55 victory at home against rival Northern Michigan to end the season and win the GLIAC North at home as a highlight of the season.

“To see the excitement in the girls faces in that win after all the hard work they had put in was pretty incredible,” she said.

Another high point in the year for Hoyt was the run of 11 wins. That began on Jan. 19 with a win over Davenport at home and ended with a loss on the road to Grand Valley State on Feb. 23.

“It is just fun to win. It puts everyone in good spirits and boosts confidence,” she said. “I am proud of how each player stepped up and made such a winning streak happen. They are the ones on the floor and they have to make the passes and the shots, and they did.”

While Hoyt was no stranger to the coaching ranks, the 2018-19 was her first as a head coach. She had assistant coaching experience from both NCAA Division I and II programs. These included stints at Northwood University, Youngstown State and the University of Sioux Falls.

“It was harder than I thought,” she said. “However, I enjoyed the challenge. I like people looking to me as the decision maker and I certainly have a greater respect for all head coaches and the pressures they are under every day. I’ve also realized I have a lot to learn and want to grow more and more.”

As Hoyt and the Huskies enter the offseason, they say goodbye to just two seniors, Kelliher and Isabella O’Brien. However, they are bringing in five freshman.

She stated that she would like to see her players to get stronger before the start of the next season.

“Hopefully, if we are stronger, we can get to the foul line a little more and handle pressure better and get in to the paint,” she said. “We are also going to work on playing faster and making decisions in transition.”

While skills on the court are essential, Hoyt has witnessed first hand that team chemistry and unity are equally important to a successful program.

“It’s been my experience that any successful team is built around relationships and keeping them strong. We will continue to do that next year as we work hard to excel in the classroom, weight room and on the court so that we can make it farther than this year.”