The University of Louisville Cardinals women's basketball team is off to a flying start this season thanks in large part to a pair of Native American sisters.
Shoni and Jude Schimmel, aged 20 and 19, respectively, are playing key roles with the Cardinals' squad. The siblings, who are in the junior and sophomore seasons, are both guards with the team.
The Schimmels, who grew up on Oregon's Umatilla Indian Reservation, helped the Louisville club register victories its first eight games. The Cardinals then suffered their first loss of the 2012-13 campaign when they were edged 48-47 by the Kentucky Wildcats this past Sunday.
Louisville is hoping to start another winning streak during its next match, this Saturday at home versus Indiana's Valparaiso University.
The Cardinals will also be hosting games in the first and second rounds of the season-ending NCAA tournament this coming March.
Shoni Schimmel said her team is hoping to have an extremely successful regular season so that it can have a favorable seeding for the NCAA tourney.
"The game plan is to go to the first and second round of the tournament because we are hosting it," she said. "We don't want to not give the fans what they want."
The eldest sister is the Cardinals' top scorer thus far this season, averaging 13.2 points per game.
"I like to pass before I shoot," she said. "But I've been shooting the ball really well this year."
The fact she's leading the Cardinals' offense though is not much of a surprise. She was the team's top point-getter last season, averaging 14.3 points per outing.
Even as a rookie at Louisville she had an immediate impact, averaging 15.1 points per game. She finished second in team scoring during that freshman season.
As for Jude Schimmel, she's averaging 3.2 points per game. But she is among the team leaders in another important statistical category - assists. After nine matches she had 23 assists and only her sister had more with 40.
Though assists may not be an important stat for some, it is for Jude Schimmel. She said she prides herself on her abilities to dish off the ball to others.
"I know we have a few scoring threats on my team," said the youngest Schimmel, who scored a career high 12 points in a 76-42 triumph over Eastern Kentucky on Nov. 28. "To me assists are more important. It means you're the one creating the points for somebody else."
Jude on the move
While Shoni Schimmel is majoring in communications at Louisville, her sister is still undecided on a major. As a result, she's taking general classes still before deciding upon which direction to head.
Though they do not have any classes together, the sisters see plenty of each other. And that's not just during basketball practices and games.
For the second straight year the Schimmels also live together, but in separate rooms in a quad-style university residence. Their two other roommates are also both members of the Cardinals' basketball squad.
Both siblings said it's not just younger Jude who goes to Shoni for support and advice.
"I think we both go to each other for advice," Jude Schimmel said. "I'd say it's pretty equal."
Shoni Schimmel echoed this sentiment.
"It's how the sisterhood works," she said. "She calms me down in a sense."
The Schimmels were also teammates for two years during their high school days. They starred at Portland's Franklin High School. That team's successes depended largely on the sisters' fortunes.
"In high school I feel that it was just my sister and me," Jude Schimmel said. "Now I feel we have other players we can rely on."
And no doubt the Cardinals and their supporters are hoping the Schimmel help carry them a rather long way this season.