Cierra Belvin (guard) and Raychel Stanley (center), the only two seniors on the women’s basketball team this year, look to close out their LMU careers with a third consecutive winning season.
The two seniors are vital to the team’s success this season. With a very young group, Belvin and Stanley have the opportunity to use their experience in the program to be leaders and mentors to the new players both on and off the court.
The Lions are without several impactful senior players who graduated last year, including All-WCC First Team guard Gabby Green, LMU’s all-time leading rebounder Bree Alford and all-time assists leader and former team captain Andee Velasco. While these are big shoes to fill, Stanley and Belvin believe they have what it takes to lead the team to another successful season.
“I’m not the loudest person in the room, so I feel like I’ve relied on older people before to lead … [but] being a senior now I feel myself being more vocal, and just trying to be an example and give [the younger players] instruction because I know they’ll listen to me,” said Stanley.
Belvin has also been stepping into a leadership role by helping the younger players adjust to the pace of the LMU basketball program.
“If people are struggling or confused about something, I take them to the side and just be there for them … they have to deal with a lot, so [I’m always] there for them,” said Belvin.
With six of last year’s players not returning, almost half the team is comprised of freshmen who are new to NCAA basketball. While some may worry about a lack of experience on the team, Belvin and Stanley see the fresh faces as an advantage.
“I think the new players will be really good for us defensively, and they’re going to bring energy … they’re just always ready to go and they’re fresh bodies, so that’s really helpful to have, and it just creates depth on our team,” said Belvin.
The regular season is long and full of competition, and the two seniors along with the rest of the team are looking to stay tough in the WCC this season. Stanley and Belvin believe LMU has the tools to win the conference championship this season if the whole team gives it their all.
“I think it’s going to take a lot of hard work … we have a young team so it’s just important to be focused at all times and just have this sense of urgency,” said Stanley. “We need to be prepared and just do our best.”
Win or lose, the seniors want to leave a legacy of having worked as hard as they could to help their team succeed.
“I just want to have a season ... where we feel like we gave it our all, regardless of any outcome. Of course I would love to never lose a game, but as long as I feel like at the end of every game we tried our hardest and we gave our best effort, then I’m okay with that,” said Belvin.
Both seniors agreed that the team’s off-court outings and retreats are their best memories at LMU. Belvin mentioned that the team became much closer recently by doing activities such as paintballing and horseback riding together.
“I think the memories we make outside of the game are way more special than the on-court moments,” said Belvin. Laughing, she added, “But I also liked when we beat BYU here [last season] ... that was exciting.”
Stanley and Belvin began their basketball careers very differently. Stanley, having grown up with two older brothers who both played multiple sports, found herself playing basketball with them from a young age.
“[My brothers] just were always athletic. They played football and basketball, so I feel like I just kind of went along with that,” said Stanley.
Belvin, on the other hand, did not grow up playing basketball and discovered the game later than many of her peers.
“I started playing in middle school, and then I got introduced to travel ball ... through that I just grew to love it more,” said Belvin.
As the two seniors approach the end of their time at LMU, they hope to incorporate their passion for sports into their future careers. Belvin expressed interest in becoming a basketball coach, while Stanley wants to combine her interests in psychology and sports.
“I really enjoy when we have summer camps here, and helping out the youth,” said Belvin. “I [am considering] getting into college basketball coaching because I really love being around the game even if I’m not playing.”
Stanley plans to attend graduate school, and “after that hopefully I’ll get a job working as a psychologist for some sports team.”