The Wranglers squads will head to New Mexico Junior College today to open conference play on the road. The men will also host New Mexico Military Institute on Saturday.
For the Odessa College women, the early part of the season has been a success. The Lady Wranglers sit at 8-0 with four victories over teams in the top 15 of the NJCAA preseason rankings. Three of those wins came during Midland College's Women's National Invitational Tournament where Odessa College knocked off No. 2 Trinity Valley Community College, No. 6 Salt Lake Community College and No. 13 Eastern Arizona College.
That early boost of confidence has the Lady Wranglers flying high into WJCAC play.
"We're really high in spirit and ready to put in the work," said sophomore Sadie Russell, who is in her second season with Odessa College.
The team has been able to blend players from across the globe and find a chemistry that it hopes will carry over through the rest of the season.
"The team is very united," said Leticia Soares, a freshman post player from Brazil.
Despite the undefeated start, head coach Ara Baten was quick to point out Odessa College still has room to grow and the team will need to keep improving if it wants to contend with the likes of No. 3 New Mexico J.C., No. 11 Midland College and South Plains for the WJCAC crown.
"We've got some things to clean up, but I think we're getting better," Baten said. "It's conference play now. We're playing a really good team.
"I know New Mexico is really well coached, they've got skilled, talented players and they execute their plan really well."
On the men's side, the Wranglers have enjoyed success as well, but there have been a few bumps in the road.
No. 9 Odessa College lost to No. 3 Trinity Valley in its third game before reeling off eight straight victories. That streak came to an end however in the most recent contest against Angelina College on Saturday after the Wranglers held the lead for large portions of the game.
"We've got to learn to keep the same intensity throughout the whole game," sophomore Marlon Hunter said. "We come out with great intensity early in the games, then coming back in the second half, we start to get flat. We've got to learn to keep our composure and keep going."
The Wranglers are still expected to be among a handful of teams vying for the WJCAC title along with No. 5 South Plains, which is undefeated (8-0). New Mexico J.C., Frank Phillips College, Howard College and Western Texas have also had solid starts to the season.
"We've got to come and be locked in and play hard," said sophomore Tyshon Rogers, who is averaging 10.7 points per game. "We need to execute and cut down on turnovers. We're playing as a team in practice and everyone is coming together."
For men's head coach Tra Arnold, the goal is for the team to find a better rhythm on offense while keeping up the defensive intensity that has led to early-season victories.
"We've played a lot of road games that have hopefully prepared us," Arnold said. "We've had some good, and we've had some bad. Hopefully we're in the right place and this is a huge one on the road to start off conference play."