Women’s basketball seeks third stright NCAA Tournament bid

by Bryan GeelanStaff Writer

Simpson Storm women’s basketball has been riding a wave of success the past two seasons. Because of that success and the reputation the team is earning, Simpson finds itself ranked at No. 24 in the nation pre-season.

Two years ago, they earned a place in the NCAA Tournament after winning the Iowa Conference Tournament. Last year, the Storm won both the regular season conference title and the conference tournament, as they were able to advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Gone from the title run of last year are all-conference performers Dana Johnson and Heather Kay, as well as guard Kenie Woodard and posts Kara DeNoon and Sara Pearson. Three of last year’s seniors saw significant playing time in the post.

“I’m a little concerned about the depth we have inside at the post,” said Brian Niemuth, head women’s basketball coach.

With the lack of experienced personnel inside, the Storm will rely on juniors Ashley Katch and Katelyn Whiton, both returning starters from a year ago. Whiton earned first team all-conference honors for her efforts last year, leading the team in both scoring and rebounding.

“We’re kind of small this year, so we are going to have to step up on defense and hustle from start to finish,” Whiton said. “The guards are going to have to be really good on defense to help us down low.”

Senior Tessa Van Oosbree and junior Carlie Beals both saw time as starters last year in the Storm backcourt and look to lead the team even more so this year. Van Oosbree has been a regular in the Simpson lineup since her freshman year and has seen the team mature in the past four years.

“We’ve gone from my freshman year where we had a couple of players that really stood out, to now, we rely on a full team effort,” Van Oosbree said. “Every year we have picked up where we left off the season before and improved from season to season.”

Beals, who has also been playing significantly since her freshman year, is closing in on a Simpson milestone. Last year, she moved into second all-time in Simpson history for three-point field goals made. She currently has 100, and needs 154 to become the all-time leader.

“It would be a cool honor, but obviously the team is number one,” Beals said. “We’re more worried right now about how the team is coming together in the first couple weeks of practice.”

Prior to the first conference games being played, there appears to be no front-runner in the Iowa Conference.

“This is going to be a wild year,” Niemuth said. “I don’t think there is going to be anybody that will stand out and none that will be terrible.”

Simpson hopes the wave of success it has been riding the past two years will lead to a similar destination this year.

“Our expectation as a team is to be conference champions again, win the conference tournament and make it back to the NCAA Tournament for the third season in a row,” Niemuth said.