George Fox women's basketball team coming off a largely successful 2017-2018 campaign

GRAPHIC FILE PHOTO - George Fox's Tavin Headings attacks the basket against Willamette in a January Northwest Conference contest.

After a 25-4 season that ended in a second round loss to Wartburg, George Fox women's basketball embarks on its 2018-2019 campaign with high expectations and plenty of experience, ranked No. 10 in the country by

The Bruins (3-1 this season) return all but two players from last year's team. A group that includes three seniors and five juniors points to its chemistry as an area of significant strength. Chemistry has a hand in George Fox's mental game, along with its ability to execute, according to multiple players.

"This is a really special group and we all get along so well," junior Haley Strowbridge said. "All of us are very close off the court and that is very apparent on the court. Because we have a core group back we've hit the ground running. Everyone knows the system for the most part and we're all in."PHOTO COURTESY OF GFU - George Fox's Hailey Hartney drives through a pair of defenders in a NCAA Division III first round game against Saint Benedict in March at Levick Arena in Waverly, Iowa.

Coach Michael Meek entered his ninth season at the helm of George Fox with an overall record of 205-31. An integral part of the Bruins' winning tradition is their Memphis offense — a dribble drive motion set with four guards and one roaming post. Meek's system provides multiple avenues for his players to attack the basket and set up teammates on the wings and in the corners.

The majority of George Fox's rotation knew the offense when the season started. That experience across the board makes it easier for Meek to point to almost anyone on his bench and send them into the game.

"We have great depth," Meek said. "We return a huge core of our team — four of our five starters and most of our bench — so I think this is an experienced team with a lot of speed and skill. This is a really good, balanced team."GRAPHIC FILE PHOTO - George Fox coach Michael Meek entered his ninth season at the helm of the Bruins with an overall record of 205-31.

George Fox opened its season with double-digit road victories over Pomona-Pitzer and California Lutheran. Its only loss so far came at home against No. 4 St. Thomas, 76-73, which the Bruins followed up by beating Claremont-Mudd-Scripps by 18.

The competitive nature of George Fox's game against St. Thomas is indicative of its status as one of the top teams in D3. Meek said the nonleague schedule is "maybe the toughest" his team has faced during his tenure in Newberg.

"I feel like we've just had a lot of really good athletes that work hard and are coachable," he said. "This team rates up there as one of the best ones as far as effort and coachability. We just want to reach our potential and focus on the now."

Meek noted that the fan support George Fox receives at its home games adds extra motivation for his players as they begin a journey to what they hope is a national championship run.

"They take a lot of pride in the school and how much support the school and Newberg has given them," Meek said. "They want to give that back through hard work and selflessness."

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