Depth will drive women’s basketball

Currently, the best part of college athletics is, as the fall sports are beginning to wrap up, the winter sports are just starting. For many avid sports fans, the winter season is all about college basketball.

The Loras women’s basketball team is returning for the 2016-17 season after a heartbreaking loss in the first round in the NCAA tournament last season. The Duhawks went 19-9 in regular play and 10-4 in conference play, winning the IIAC conference tournament and giving them an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Their loss in the first round of the tournament has ignited a fire within the team that cannot be put out.

“We have an amazing amount of depth, and we try to scheme a system to play a lot of people,” stated head coach Justin Heinzen. “We are trying to do as much as possible, be really good at the things we do, the things we have right now, and embracing the new system.”

The Duhawks are continually finding a system that works for them, especially after graduating the senior class of Kaitlin Phillips, Megan Jones, and Abby Reinke. Luckily this team has depth and has heart.

“We have a lot of players who are playing at a high level, and I expect help from every class in our rotation – contributions from everywhere,” said Heinzen. “I am happy with where we are at.” With this higher level of play and history of success comes increased expectations. The team is aiming to repeat their conference win and make an appearance in the NCAA tournament. While accomplishing these goals won’t be easy, the players are confident in their ability to make an impact.

“Our style is more fast-paced than last year,” stated senior captain Lori Obendorf. “We are hoping to take advantage of the depth we have by wearing other teams out and keeping the energy high the whole game. We also want to keep with our identity and what Loras basketball is all about: defense, hustle plays, dives, rebounding, communication, and high energy.”

Obendorf leads the team alongside her co-captains: seniors Terese McMahon and Kat Cabrera and sophomore Taylor Brooks. These leaders are strong role models on and off the court for the newcomers and even the returners. The 2016-17 season will feature six newcomers along with many returners. These fresh faces include first-years Macenzie Kraemer from Spring Green, WI; Aly Clark from Crystal Lake, IL; Riley Eckhart from Park Ridge, IL; and Holly Bock from Mason City, IA. The team also welcomes junior transfers Addie Oberman and Cyerra Hutchins from Kirkwood Community College.

These newcomers and the rest of the Duhawks will have their work cut out for them with the tough schedule ahead. Some of these matchups include the Cornell Tipoff in early November and the Baldwin Wallace Invitational in late December. Because of the strength of their schedule, each game is going to test the Duhawks and showcase their grit and skill as a program.

Excitement is the best word is describe the upcoming season for the women’s basketball program.  It is going to be a season that is fun to play and fun to watch. The Duhawks hosted Carthage College for their home opener on Tuesday, Nov. 15. Next they will travel to Mt. Vernon, IA, to compete in the Cornell Tipoff. The Duhawks will take on their first conference team at home on Nov. 30.

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