Senior Olivia Kaufmann enters her final year as a Leatherneck and brings leadership and experience to the table this year.
Kaufmann was a freshman when Western won The Summit League Tournament and went to the NCAA tournament in 2017. In her first two years as a Neck, she was the backup to arguably the greatest point guard in Leatherneck history, Emily Clemens. Clemens finished with 1,699 points, 687 assists and 438 rebounds. After playing a limited role her freshman year, Kaufmann averaged just under 19 minutes a game and 6.4 points a game during her sophomore year. In her junior year, Kaufmann became a starter and led the ‘Necks in scoring and assists, averaging 16 points per game and 3.8 assists per game.
Last year, Kaufmann proved her experience on the court, and this year, she will prove her leadership on and off the court.
“I’m really looking forward to this year, and kind of being that leader,” Kaufmann said. “Like a good teammate, if one of the freshmen needs someone to come to, I like being that person,”
When asked about having teammate redshirt junior Sam Pryor back in the lineup after she tore her ACL last year, Kaufmann immediately got emotional.
“It means a lot, it really does. Just cause she’s been through so much, and we kind of just been that person for each other. I just know what it means for her,” Kaufmann said.
She cares deeply about her teammates and will go to battle with them over any team in the country.
Just like last year, Western has a tough non-conference schedule to open up their season. They play Missouri, Purdue, Bradley and Drake, all teams they lost to last year.
“After we overcome some of that adversity that we have, that confidence and we’re going into those games remembering what certain situations felt like, and being able to prepare for that and understand if you do get down against a team like that, ‘its okay,’ you know it’s a long game, you’re going to come back from that kind of stuff,” Kaufmann said.
Last year, the Leathernecks only had four wins before entering conference play. She alluded to the fact that those games do get them ready for The Summit League, and they help the teams resume down the stretch.
“Even when it comes to making postseason tournaments, the higher quality opponents you’re playing, people are going to look into that versus if you’re getting wins over walkover teams,” Kaufmann said.
Last year, the Leathernecks finished 12-18 overall, and fifth in The Summit League. Their season ended in the first round of The Summit League tournament to Oral Roberts, 68-64. This year the Necks were picked to finish fifth for the second straight year in the preseason Summit League polls.
“Obviously, the preseason stuff doesn’t mean a whole lot, but we as a team know where we stand and what we’re capable of,” Kaufmann said.
The team is trying to catch South Dakota and South Dakota State, who have dominated The Summit League conference the last two years.
“Everyone just believes in one another; I don’t doubt that we can beat one of the Dakotas. That’s where your mindset is,” Kaufmann said.
She was the only Leatherneck to be selected to the preseason All-Summit League second team but isn’t focused on that at all.
“I mean I guess it’s a nice gesture, but honestly no… I have more, bigger goals for my team,” Kaufmann said.
With Kaufmann being a senior, the sky is more than the limit for her.
“I would love to win The Summit League tournament, win conference, obviously just shoot for the stars this year. And I think we have the team as the season gets rolling, we have a big group of girls that I think have the capability of doing it.” Kaufmann said.
Kaufmann’s focus is not only on the basketball court for the upcoming season. She hopes to build her legacy in other ways on campus as well.
“Just being a caring person off the court, more in that regard than on the court. I would like to be known as a leader and competitor, but also a person that someone can come to and talk to.” Kaufmann said.
There is no doubt Kaufmann has undeniable love for her teammates, and she would run through a brick wall for them. And maybe even another Summit League title and Conference Championship will add to her legacy as a Leatherneck.