Women’s basketball aims for top of conference

Women’s basketball aims for top of conference

by Erich Bogner, Sports Reporter

The Simpson women’s basketball team wants to get back to being the team to beat. In 2013, they made the Division III NCAA tournament and that is a place where they want to return.

In the Iowa Conference preseason coaches’ poll, Simpson is ranked fifth. Last season, they went 15-11 overall and 8-6 in conference.

The young Simpson team consists of 13 freshmen.

“Right now we’re putting in both our offense and defense,” head coach Brian Niemuth said. “We’ve got a lot of new people, so we’re trying to get them to learn our system right now. And we haven’t put in as much as I would have liked, but they’re doing a good job of learning so far.”

As a young team, the biggest challenge they face will be consistency, which Niemuth said, younger players usually lack. But he said he thinks this group may attest to that challenge.

Niemuth is entering his 30th season as Simpson’s head basketball coach and is the IIAC all-time winningest coach with 337 wins. He is well qualified to handle a young team, and he looks forward to the challenge.

“I’m excited about being able to teach more in practice and watch their development,” Niemuth said. “They have great attitudes, both the newcomers and our returners. They all have been working hard, and it’s been high-energy at practice. It’s really re-energized me.”

He said the team’s biggest strength is the balance they have between young and old, and inside and outside players. He thinks some of their biggest assets are the senior leaders on the team.

Megan Lankford is entering her fifth year on the team, Noreen Morrow was an all-conference selection and one of Simpson’s top-scoring returners, and Britney Boland and Katie Ahrenholtz were the other two top-scorers among players returning this year.

“I’m looking forward to the excitement the freshman class is bringing,” Lankford said. ”They’re excited to play here and want to help bring Simpson back to where is has been in the past. They want to be at the top of the conference, not in the middle of the pack like we have been the last few years.”

She said the success of the team will depend on how quickly the team is able to merge together and how well the young players are able to adapt to the speed and physicality of college basketball.

Lankford’s role is to be a floor general. Her first option isn’t to score, but she has the experience to see and create scoring opportunities for her teammates.

“The chemistry has blended and grown very quickly,” Lankford said. “For me, stepping in from soccer, it was crazy how close some of the girls already are. We haven’t even gone on the away trips that really help the team bond and come together.”

Chemistry like this helps them on the court by making them comfortable together. They know each other’s tendencies and where other players will be in certain situations. It will help their offense and defense flow seamlessly.