Coming off of an 87-59 win against Fort Wayne last week the USD women’s basketball team will be looking to score big this week against North Dakota State, a team the Coyotes lost 73-83 to earlier this month. Hoping to help put a W in the column for the Coyotes will be Allison Arens, a sophomore guard who has become one of the leading players for USD this year.
The Crofton, Nebraska native who scored 18 points against Fort Wayne and averages 20 points per game, received recognition as ESPNW’s player of the week earlier this month and has been in the spotlight by local and national media alike this season. Even with all of the attention, however, she said she doesn’t think about all of the awards she’s earned and sometimes doesn’t even know about a story recognizing her until someone tells her.
“I don’t really know if necessarily if I deserve those awards really,” she said. “What we’ve been through this year is more than just the points on the board.”
Arens is referring to the end of a season last year that saw USD win the Women’s National Invitational Tournament while also losing the five seniors and a head coach who helped lead the team to both that tournament and a 2014 NCAA tournament berth.
“Just as a team I mean even coming from last year just losing all the girls and losing all of our coaches — it’s been a team effort this year and I think the award should go to the whole team and not just an individual because there’s more to it,” she said.
Arens, an elementary education major, said her freshman season last year was filled with challenges as she tried to adjust to playing basketball in college, but thanks to the support of her older sister Bridget, a senior forward who also plays for USD, she was able to adjust more easily.
“Last year like obviously I went through some tough challenges being a freshman and all but she was really the one who kind of pulled me through and kind of gave me confidence, but yet chewed me out when I needed and told me to ‘stop feeling sorry for yourself and go for it’ because she knew I could do it,” she said.
Bridget said the two sisters started playing basketball when they were in grade school and used to shoot hoops as a “outlet for fun” after doing chores on the farm they grew up on with their four other siblings and parents five miles outside of Crofton.
“It was something our parents never really pushed on us,” Bridget said. “They’re definitely sports people but they didn’t push us into anything so it kind of let us find our own way and find what we really enjoyed. But once we found what we enjoyed they were very adamant about you know ‘if you want to be successful you have to put the time in, you’ve got to be dedicated to it,’” she said.
The elder Arens graduated from USD in December and came back this Spring to get her master’s degree to be a school counselor. She said being a full-time graduate student and a student-athlete is challenging, but by prioritizing her time, and with the help of her professors, she’s able to keep up with the rest of the students in her class.
“It’s kind of like the game of basketball, you know you have to be dedicated to it and staying dedicated to your schoolwork is I think the biggest thing.”
Head coach Dawn Plitzuweit said the Arens sisters are fun to work with.
“They’re completely hardworking, coachable kids. They were raised on a farm so they understand that work has to get done when it gets done,” she said. “They’ve played for state championships at the high school level, they know what it takes to win. They’re really incredible kids to have in terms of culture, in terms of work ethic and they’re really a joy to be around.”
Plitzuweit said the sisters are extremely passionate about playing basketball and improving as players, even going so far as to watch game footage on planes to away games.
“I would say what’s really special about those two and their bond is to watch them interact with each other on the baseline — they’re talking about a play that just took place, they’re figuring out how we want to guard it differently,” she said.
Both sisters said that when they’re out on the court together, they’re able to read each other’s moves and act accordingly.
“We’re kind of in each other’s minds to the point where at times I can tell if she’s struggling or she can tell if I’m struggling and it’s very easy to see that and to pick each other up or tell each other to get going. It’s an awesome experience that I’m so so so grateful to have had and I’m really excited for the next two who get to do the same thing because it’s really awesome,” Bridget said.
The “next two” she’s talking about are the youngest Arens sisters, Monica and Alexis, both impressive basketball players in their own right. Monica, a senior guard for the Crofton Lady Warriors, has scored 1,000 points in her high school career and has committed to playing at USD next year. Alexis, a freshman, is also playing on Crofton’s team with Monica. If she decides to play at USD as well, the Arens name could be on the USD roster for almost a decade.
“I won’t say we think about our last name a lot,” Bridget said. “We just really enjoy the process and playing for each other and playing for this university and honestly the people behind this university are just outstanding— whether it’s the students, the community, the people back home, our former coaches and teammates — it’s really a team effort.”
Allison has similar sentiments.
“It’s pretty cool. It’s kind of an honor really,” she said. “Honestly, I would say speaking on behalf of all of my sisters I’d say we’re grateful for the opportunity to come here and be together.”
On Thursday both women will be out on the court once again, feeding off of each other’s energy and reading each other’s moves almost before the other makes them.