Simpson College women’s basketball treated winter break right, heading to the warmth of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. on Dec. 17 and 18 for games with Goucher College and St. Thomas University (Fla.).
The Storm went 2-0 in Florida and followed up the trip with a 69-61 win on New Year’s Day against AIB College of Business to close out the non-conference season.
Overall Simpson finished 10-1 in non-conference play, before sitting at 12-3 and 2-2 in the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference currently.
“Right now we are just trying to get healthy,” head coach Brian Niemuth said. “We played some tough non-conference games that got us ready mentally, but physically and health wise we are not quite there.”
“IIAC women’s basketball is considered one of the best in the nation”
Going into Wednesday night’s game with first place Luther College, Simpson sits at 2-2 in the IIAC, all alone in fifth place in the conference.
Coe College, consistently at the top of the conference, knocked off Simpson 75-69 to start IIAC play.
Niemuth, who’s only started off the season 0-2 in IIAC play once in his 28 years at Simpson evaded that fate by bouncing Buena Vista University 62-54 victory at home.
Simpson then split a two-game road stretch, taking a surprising double-digit loss to Loras College before knocking off Wartburg College 77-70 last Saturday.
At 12-3 and 2-2 in the IIAC, Simpson is in good position to make a run at the NCAA Tournament, but the rugged and tight games in the IIAC highlight the parity in the league.
“Right now you have to win every home game in conference and try to win at least half on the road,” Niemuth said. “The good thing about having a competitive conference is that everyone is knocking each other out.”
Haupt, Hedrick, Boland lead the scoring for Simpson in conference
While the losses of Markayla Mahr and Brooke Panzer have been tough for the Storm, Simpson has been able to dig into their depth and variety in scoring to pick up the slack.
In conference, junior MacKenzie Haupt, the Simpson College women’s student-athlete of the month in December, is leading the Storm with 13.2 points per game.
Sophomore point guard, Brittany Hedrick, follows right behind at 12.8 points per contest, while the Truman State University transfer Britney Boland has added 8.8 points per game in conference.
“MacKenzie Haupt has stood out a lot after working really hard in the offseason,” Niemuth said. “I think Brittany Hedrick and Britney Boland are who we want taking the shots at the end of the game, and hopefully they embrace that role.”
Gotta crash the boards too:
While Simpson has come out with two wins in these games, in each of the four games in conference play the women’s basketball team has been outrebounded 169-111.
For a team that wants to push the ball in transition, they are going to have to rebound and finding that source of rebounding is a primary concern for the team going forward.
“We’ve had people in the past that have been able to dominate on the boards,” Niemuth said. “If we don’t rebound we can’t run and have to play a half-court offense. That’s not what we want.”
After Wednesday night’s matchup with first place Luther College, the Storm will have a chance to address this against the University of Dubuque on Jan. 24.