DENVER — After a 12-16 record and finishing 10th in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, Regis University’s women’s basketball program wasn’t exactly feeling the love.
They headed into the off-season with one goal in mind: Create a new culture. But not the culture you might think.
“Culture” to Regis doesn’t mean running wind sprints or shooting 100 jumpers – they wanted to establish a culture of caring.
“Student athletes are humans first,” said senior Sam Deem, who transferred to Regis from Denver University.
When making the decision to leave DU, Deem prioritized personal connection over everything when choosing a new school.
“[I was looking for] somebody who I cared about as a person and somebody who I knew cared about me back,” said Deem.
She found that person in Molly Marrin, Regis’ head basketball coach and an excellent former player in her own right. Marrin was inducted into the university’s Hall of Fame earlier this year.
“It’s more than basketball here,” said Marrin.
She deeply cares for her team, but to get them to truly connect she needed to inject vulnerability.
“[I needed to be] willing to say, ‘Hey, I messed up here’ and be more vulnerable as a coach,” said Marrin. “I think, sometimes, we think we need to have all the answers [as coaches] and we don’t. Me being more human has allowed them the grace to do so as well. That’s been a goal of mine.”
Vulnerability became connection, connection turned to love, and love snowballed into the Rangers’ best season in 16 years.
They finished the season 25-6, winning the RMAC regular season title for the first time since 2007. They were the 1-seed and hosted the RMAC tournament and won that too.
“Basketball obviously is what we’re here to do and what is important to us,” said Deem. “But we have to care about each other outside of basketball for basketball to work for us.”
Junior Erin Fry found a new life through this culture of caring.
“I’ve done a complete 360, you can say it,” said Fry, a junior who averaged just over five points per game in 2021-22.
This season, she’s up over 15 points per game and was awarded the RMAC Player of the Year award.
“Coming into this season, I wanted to take on a leadership role,” said Fry. “I wanted to lead this team to something great. I worked every day in the gym - in the weight room - to help get myself in a position to play long minutes and to push through fatigue. [I worked to be able to] do whatever is needed out there on the court. I’ve worked for it.”
They put in the work, now they’re reaping the success they sowed.
“We knew things were going to change,” said Deem.
This bond, forged through adversity and cultivated carefully, looks primed to lift the Rangers to new heights.
“When you enjoy being around people and truly love each other, to me that’s [a big] piece of it,” said Marrin. “When you have captains and upper-classmen saying, ‘No, that’s not how we do things here,’ the player-led piece to it, that has led to the results.”
“We’re in this to win a championship,” said Deem. “We’re in this to make it to the NCAA tournament.”