The Kentucky Wesleyan College women's basketball team experienced a historic campaign last season, capped off by a trip to the NCAA Division II Tournament -- but the Panthers aren't satisfied.

KWC went 24-8 a year ago, finishing as the runner-up in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference tournament and earning an at-large bid before eventually falling to top-seeded Drury in the first round of the Midwest Region Championship.

Now, the Panthers are looking for more.

"That's the challenge every year," KWC co-head coach Caleb Nieman said. "Regardless of the year before, what the outcome was, this is a fresh, new year. We have some returning faces, but the season itself is new. The quicker we can get into that mindset, the better."

Caleb and Nicole Nieman, entering their 10th season as Panthers coaches, typically don't like to use previous years as a measuring point -- except for stressing the same principles that have helped create a successful program over the last decade.

In nine seasons, KWC has compiled a program-best 170-87 mark.

"We're always just looking to be the best teammates we can be and work our tails off," Caleb Nieman said. "When you do that, you have a lot of fun, and the opportunities are endless when that happens. That's always the mindset."

The Panthers also don't focus much on wins and losses. Game results are simply the byproduct of KWC's daily effort.

"I think with sports and athletics these days, there's just a tremendous amount of pressure put on the kids to perform," Nieman said. "I think that we try to stay away from talking about that stuff and really focus on the things they can control.

"I think that's kind of unleashed them. They have a lot of fun, and then the results will follow. They aren't chasing the results. They're chasing the experience of being a great leader and being a great teammate."

Kaylee Clifford, a junior guard, knows there will be challenges ahead, though.

"It's definitely gonna be tough this year," she said. "We lost four people that were a big core to our team, but I think we're gonna be a lot better. We have a lot of work to do still to get back to where we were, but I think we'll get there."

Ultimately, Clifford wants to help lead her team back to the NCAA Tournament.

"That was really fun," she recalled. "(Our goals are) just have fun and win as many games as possible, and if we lose, don't let that get us down. Continue with the next day and the next practice and the next game."

Wesleyan, with six new faces on this year's squad, will continue to use its fast-paced offensive approach, which specializes in passing the ball and creating scoring opportunities for the entire lineup.

In order to excel with that playing style, though, Wesleyan coaches stress that the Panthers will need to be "in the best shape of their lives."

"If we can play fast and play several people, that's ideal," Nieman said. "We're not gonna play 9-to-10 kids because that's just what we do; they've got to earn that spot.

"I think we've always led our conference in possessions, so that's been our strength. … If you can rebound and shoot the 3, you can probably play for us."

Official practice for Wesleyan began Tuesday, so the Panthers are still working to sort out their playing rotation. No matter how it ends up, however, Nieman has the same goal as any other year: "Sticking together."

"It sounds simple," he said, "but if you think about it over the course of a season -- 17 weeks of being together, of fighting for greatness and competing. If you stick together through all that, I think that's a successful season."

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