Depth, experience bring conference title hopes to women’s basketball

by Ben Frotscher

Women’s basketball coach Brian Niemuth found himself in a small predicament as he planned for the 2004 season. Niemuth had four quality post players on the roster and only one could play at a time under last year’s offensive strategy.

Instead of sitting three post players on the bench, Niemuth decided to implement a two-post-player system to get an advantage in the paint this year.

This slight offensive change will be the only noticeable alteration the women’s basketball team will endure this season.

Niemuth is entering his 18th season as a coach for the Storm and is setting the same goal for this year as in years past.

“We go into every season hoping to win the conference, conference tournament and qualify for the NCAA tournament,” Niemuth said.

The Storm will be returning nearly all of its key players from a year ago, including senior Ashley Bogaards, a first team All-Conference selection. Bogaards averaged 12.7 points and 5.6 rebounds last year for the Storm.

Other returning players from last year include seniors Jessica Schultz and Kristi Prostine, juniors Kara DeNoon and Sarah Pearson and sophomore Tessa Van Oosbree.

“We have three new players that I hope will also make an impact this year,” Niemuth said.

Sophomore Ashley Hansen is a transfer from Central College, where she played in five varsity games last year for the Dutch. Niemuth also expects freshmen Katelyn Whiton and Carlie Beals to improve the team even further this year.

With many players having a lot of experience on the court, Niemuth expects this to be a strength of the team.

“We have a lot of depth and a lot of experience coming back this year,” Niemuth said.

Depth and experience give the team to high hopes to be competitive this year with defending conference champion Buena Vista.

“I think we have the potential to finish at the top of the conference and advance into tournament play,” Pearson said. “Every member of our team has a strong work ethic. We can all see that we have potential.”

While Pearson sees work ethic as a strength of the team, Prostine sees team chemistry and consistency as keys to this year’s team.

“We have really good team chemistry as a team,” Prostine said. “I think we also need to be consistent. A lot of teams go through up and down periods, and we just need to make sure that we stay up.”

Niemuth said besides the Beavers contending for the conference title, he expects Luther to contend. He also cautioned that any team could fall on any day of the season schedule.

“The conference has been as strong as ever from top to bottom for the last three years,” Niemuth said.

While the team seems to be full of strengths, there is one weakness that Niemuth will admit to.

“I’m not sure that we have a star player, but we have a lot of good players,” Niemuth said.

Prostine agreed that the team was stronger as a group than as a set of individuals.

“We are pretty strong all around,” Prostine said.

Experience will benefit the Storm when it starts the season in the Rockford Tip-Off Tournament in Rockford, Ill. Simpson will be facing No. 25 Hope College in the opening game of the tournament and Niemuth is confident that his team will be ready for tomorrow’s game.

“I’ve been happy with how we’ve been playing so far, and we will just need a little time to gel.”