First-year Head Coach Amy Sander is encouraged by what she has seen so far from the Nebraska Wesleyan women’s basketball team. And that’s good, because playing and coaching women’s basketball in the Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) is no picnic.
NWU’s first three league games are against Concordia University (Neb.), which was a national semifinalist in NAIA Division II last season, followed by Hastings College and Morningside College, which are ranked No. 5 and No. 1, respectively in the NAIA Div. II Preseason Rating. Morningside is the two-time defending national champion in NAIA Div. II.
In fact, since the conference changed names in 2000-01, all five NAIA Div. II champions in women’s basketball have come from the GPAC. Other NWU opponents ranked in the preseason include Doane College (No. 10), Northwestern College (No. 17) and Buena Vista University, which is No. 11 in the USA Today/ESPN Division III Top 25 Coaches’ Poll.
“The GPAC is an extremely competitive conference, so we need to come ready to play,” Sander said. “We want to battle and just try and be undefeated against the team we are playing that day. Every game is an opportunity to be 1-0.”
The Prairie Wolves have two major holes left by Lisa German, who was accepted early into pharmacy school, and Amy Meier, who graduated. German led the 2004-05 team, which finished 6-19, in points per game (12.5) and rebounds (6.2), while Meier was a three-year starter, who averaged 9.1 points as a senior.
Seniors Christine Johnson and Angie Schlecht join junior Samantha Porter and Meagan Wells as the returning players with the most experience. Porter was the team’s assist leader last year.
One of our strengths will be leadership,” Sander said. “Our juniors and seniors have shown a positive attitude and have been very committed and hard-working in practice.”
Sophomores Devan Aschtgen, Claire Berreckman, Sarah Henning, Danielle Krienert and Sarah Sedlak also figure to be in the mix for court time along with first-year players Sarah Potter and Alicia Thiele.
“We’ll utilize several players to keep people fresh, which should help build our depth,” Sander said. “We will try to spread the floor and allow each player to take advantage of what she does best.”
NWU is set to play a total of eight NCAA Division III opponents in 2005-06, including a pair at the end of the regular season, when the women return to Colorado Springs for the Association of Division III Independent Tournament.
The tourney gives independent institutions from the West Region one last chance to add to their win totals against in-region foes, which is the primary factor considered by the NCAA selection committee. Teams will include Chapman University, University of California at Santa Cruz, Colorado College and Nebraska Wesleyan.