The Bellarmine Knights women’s basketball team is in unfamiliar territory. A year after claiming its first Great Lakes Valley Conference Championship in 20 years, the team enters the season attempting to defend the crown, trying to capture its first back-to-back GLVC titles in program’s history.

The team couldn’t have gotten off to a more perfect start.

The Knights sit at 8-0 heading into their two-week exam break from games as they prepare for the Palm Beach Atlantic Holiday Hoops Classic. Last week, they landed in the top five in the nation as the No. 5 team in the WBCA Coaches Poll, and then, they rose to No. 4 this week. This all, of course, is coming off one of the best season’s in program’s history, one in which they finished 24-4, won the GLVC and made an NCAA appearance.

RELATED: The WBCA Coaches Poll 

The Knights have come a long way in a short time. Prior to the 2012-2013 season, they were towards the bottom of a stacked GLVC that usually finds two or three of their teams in the national rankings. Then, head coach Chancellor Dugan and then-freshman Sarah Galvin arrived on campus, and things seemingly changed immediately.

“Coach Dugan has done a great job building the program from where it was my freshman year,” senior forward Sarah Galvin said. “She is an exceptional coach that has recruited great players that I have had the opportunity to play and win with. She uses her love for the game to motivate my teammates and I both on and off the court, which is what I admire the most about her. Something that Coach Dugan and I have in common is that we both want to win and will do whatever it takes to win. With that being said, her mentality to win is what has brought us this far, being a top five team in the nation. She pushes us past our limits each and every day in practice and has been preparing our team for where we are today since her first day coaching at Bellarmine.”

They went through their growing pains together, but they did, in fact, grow together. Now, this senior-laden team, which features three senior starters in the lineup, is geared up to defend the crown. 

“As a team, we are proud to defend the GLVC title,” Galvin said. “This year, Coach Dugan has continually told us that we have targets on our backs, but it is something we need to take pride in and not be scared of. I know that my teammates and I will continue working hard to defend the title and will be prepared for every teams’ best shot. We just have to stay disciplined and confident in what we are capable of accomplishing this year and work together as a team.”

Galvin has become one of the premier players in the GLVC. She finished last season as the Knights most highly decorated player, taking home MVP honors of the GLVC Tournament, as well as First-Team All-Region and All-GLVC honors. She hasn’t skipped a beat this year, as she is amongst the GLVC leaders in scoring with 16.1 points per game and second in rebounding, pulling down nine a night. She isn’t alone however. Players such as senior guard Destony Curry chips in 10.1 points a night, and junior guard Raven Merriweather chips in 12.3 points and four rebounds a night, as well. Running the floor is senior Whitney Hartiage who is amongst the GLVC leaders in assists and turnover ratio.

“This team has a lot of depth,” Galvin said. “Most teams believe that if you stop me, you stop Bellarmine, but this is far from the truth. There is so much talent on our team that any one of us could come out on any given night and put up numbers. Every person on our team contributes to the success we have. I expect to lead the team in whatever way I can this year whether it be scoring or not. Raven [Merriweather] and Destony [Curry] have stepped up this year and have given the teams in our league a different look of what Bellarmine is all about, but I believe we all have to be stopped in order to be defeated not just one of us.”

Despite last season’s success, their stay in the NCAA tournament was short lived. As the three seed, they were upset by sixth-seeded Saginaw Valley in the first round, 69-58. You can bet that game has fueled the fire and has changed the end goal for this season. 

“Our early exit from the NCAA tournament was disappointing,” Galvin said. “My teammates and I knew that we were better than how we played. The loss has personally made me even more eager to win than I already am. Last year, we got a little taste of what it was like to compete at the next level, so this next time around we will know what to expect.”

For Galvin and her fellow seniors, they know that this is the final chapter in their Knights run. It was a run that saw them revitalize the program and take them to the next level. Does that mean that a national championship title is in their sights?

“With it being my final year, I plan on leaving everything out on the court and giving my best shot each game,” Galvin said. “I don’t want to leave anything behind because I know we have what it takes to win a regional title and a national championship. It’s just a matter of doing it.”