Currently viewing the tag: "Head Coach Dan Engelstad"

Blair Garrett

The young guns have begun to click under new head coach Dan Engelstad.

The Mount St. Mary’s men’s basketball team has picked up its first two wins of the season in back-to-back victories against Wilson College and American University, bringing the team back on track after a rocky start.

The wins are Engelstad’s first as the bench boss for The Mount, and after navigating the waters of its toughest stretch of the season by facing some of the nation’s top teams on the road, the squad has come out the other side stronger and ready for more challenges.

With The Mount sporting an entire roster of underclassmen, the team was expecting to deal with struggles playing as a complete team, but the progress thus far has been apparent, and the Moutaineers are poised for a strong second half of the season.

“If you look at where we started,  from the summer to where we are now, just the improvement has been considerable,” Engelstad said. “We’re competing at a higher level.” 

Fortunately for Mount St. Mary’s, their first in-conference game does not come until the new year, giving the team more valuable time to cultivate the chemistry and consistency needed to compete in crucial games against the league’s toughest opponents.

Consistency has been a major point of focus for the team, heading into the most important part of the season. The ability to create a lead and continue to push the pace through the second half has been emphasized through the locker room and looks to be a key factor in the success of this young team.

“The biggest struggle we’re having is putting it together for a full 40 minutes, and that’s something with the youth,” Engelstad said. “We’re trying to close our gaps and big runs from the opponent.”

With the team securing some momentum from the team’s recent resurgence, there seems to be a sense of excitement throughout the group for what is to come.  

“Our season is broken down into three seasons,” Engelstad said. “You have non-conference, conference games, and playoffs, so the fact that we’ve battled against some really high level opponents bodes well for us going into the games where the competition isn’t as strong as we’ve faced.”

The road difficulties and strength of schedule during the early weeks of the season may end up playing right into the hands of The Mount, allowing Engelstad’s squad to head into conference matchups carrying confidence and a level of experience competing against world-class talent. “We feel like we’re battle tested,” he said.

Individual performances have given the team waves of momentum, but as The Mount turns the page into 2019, developing that effort and experience into closing out games with a vicegrip on the lead will prove that the hard work, day in and day out, is finally paying off.

“There’s a lot of optimism in our group in what we can accomplish in the league,” Engelstad said. “We just know that if we’re going to do anything, we’ve got to keep getting better every day, every practice and every game, and there’s a great opportunity to keep improving.”

Sophomore Jalen Gibbs scored a career-high 30 points in the team’s first win of the season over Wilson College.

Photo by Blair Garrett

Blair Garrett

The road to the NCAA Tournament is paved by overcoming challenges, game after game.

Whether it’s a heated rivalry game or a shootout against a top team, each opponent must be approached with a game plan for success.

With the 2018-19 NCAA Men’s basketball season fast approaching, the Mount St. Mary’s team has just a few days left to fine tune its offensive and defensive strategies before the start of its climb back to the team’s ultimate goal: competing for a national title.

“A big key to this season is going to be how we handle the tough times and the adversity,” said Head Coach Dan Engelstad. “Every season, you’re going to hit it, and with our schedule, we’re going to play some really tough teams early, and how our team stays the course is going to be a really big factor for us.”

With a new head coach and a team entirely made up of freshmen and sophomores, there is plenty of room for growth as the season progresses. But what this Mount St. Mary’s squad may lack in experience, they make up for in explosiveness, tenacity, and a solid game plan.

“We are young, but we have some really nice talent,” Engelstad said. “We think we’re going to be able to play fast, play up-tempo, get after you on the defensive end.”

Just two seasons ago, the Mount made the leap that every Division I basketball team hopes for: playing for a national title. Mount St. Mary’s entered the dance as a 16 seed and faced off against No. 1 seeded, Villanova University, keeping up a competitive first half before eventually falling to the Wildcats.

While the team’s tournament did not have a fairytale ending, it did prove that Mount St. Mary’s was not out of place competing at the highest level, and that competitive level is something the Mount is going to have to replicate this coming season to make a deep run into the post-season.

The entire team, from the players to the coaches, know the season begins even before the team’s first game. “What we bring [to practice] every day is going to be directly reflective of what happens on the court,” Engelstad said.

Experts and league officials are not carrying high expectations this season for Mount St. Mary’s, but embracing the underdog storyline is something Engelstad and the team can get behind. “I like having a chip on our shoulder and something to prove, and we’re trying to instill that with our young guys. We like that.”

Finding that rhythm early is going to be key for the Mount as it enters potentially the toughest stretch of the season. Engelstad’s group begins seven of its first eight games of the season on the road, but he is ecstatic to return as a coach in his home state.

“This was a dream opportunity for me, being from Maryland. This place has been so special for me.”

The Bethesda native looks to start his team’s season strong, making his Mount St. Mary’s debut as head coach in Raleigh, North Carolina, against NCAA tournament hopefuls, North Carolina State University on November 6.

The Mount St. Mary’s Basketball Team makes every practice count, fine tuning its offensive and defensive strategies, ready for a successful season ahead.

Photo by Blair Garrett