1st place preseason projection ends in 1st round IIAC exit – what’s next for women’s basketball

In November, the Simpson College women’s basketball team was chosen to finish first in the IIAC coaches’ preseason poll. Sports are unpredictable, and the Storm finished 6th and checked out of the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Tournament after a first round loss to Coe College.

“A lot of us were disappointed after this season because we had higher expectations for this team,” junior Morgan Mauro said.

The Storm started off the season 10-1 in non-conference play before finishing the year 6-9 in the IIAC. This disparity in record between conference and non-conference play could be attributed to the difficulty of the IIAC although also to Simpson’s issues in rebounding.

“Our conference is rated as one of the top five in the nation,” Niemuth said. “In the past couple of years we had some players that were able to go in and dominate on the boards. Everyone needed to pitch in this year as that has been a glaring weakness.”

The Storm only outrebounded their opponents twice all conference season. Defensively, Simpson was solid all around though, allowing only 63.7 points per game, second in the conference only to Coe at 62 points per game.

Despite switching to man-to-man defense late in the season, a rarity for Niemuth, Simpson developed into a defensive stalwart even with their image as a run-and-gun team going into the year.

“We ended the year in man-to-man defense and our coach has never done that before as we’ve always done zone,” junior Maddie Muhlenbruck said. “I think our defense is tough. Just being able to get everyone back and get into sync next year will be big, because if they don’t score they don’t win.”

Five of Simpson’s nine IIAC losses this season were only by two scores or less, and the Storm prevented another barn burner from going the wrong way on Brittany Hedrick’s buzzer-beating bank shot 3-pointer that helped lead to a win over eventual conference champ, Luther College.

The Storm would then finish 16-10, 6-9 in the IIAC and will be expected to put even better numbers up next season as every single player who earned varsity minutes will be returning next year.

Alyse Messa is the lone member of the team who graduates although she appeared for the junior varsity squad.

“It’s exciting to have everyone coming back,” Muhlenbruck said. “We’ll all be on the same page and understand what needs to be done.”

Amongst the most notable returners are junior MacKenzie Haupt, who lead the team in scoring with 10.5 points per game this season, sophomore Brittany Hedrick who put up 9.4 ppg. and Britney Boland, the Truman State transfer who came in and lead the team in minutes per game and scored 7.4 points per contest.

All-purpose player, Whitney Van Wyk will be back as a senior as well. Van Wyk who was second in rebounds per game, first in assists per game at 1.9 apg, first on the team in steals with 1.8 and in blocks at 1.1 per contest.

The Storm also return nine players who averaged at least 10 minutes per game this season.

“With everyone coming back, we have a lot of talent and know we can do something special,” Mauro said. “We are looking forward to get that chance so we can prove how good we can be.”

While they will not have many new faces coming in, the Storm don’t plan on putting the breaks on and settling into their roles, understanding progress is made in the offseason as they look to return to their IIAC dominance.

“It’s always our goal to get faster and stronger,” Muhlenbruck said. “We’ll have Sunday league and pick up ball for those who live around here and coach will find places for people who don’t live around here, to play. We’ll talk to coach to see what we need to work on, but it all depends on the player.”