Improvement was the name of the game for the Nebraska Wesleyan University women’s basketball team in 2005-06. With consecutive 6-19 seasons behind them, the Prairie Wolves set out to improve, and they did just that, finishing with an overall record of 10-16, including a 7-11 mark in Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) games.
NWU started slow, winning just three of its first 13 games, but finished strong, going 7-6 in the last half of the season. The team’s momentum began to swing at home against Midland Lutheran College on Jan. 11. Meagan Wells scored a career-high 29 points, shooting 10-for-13 from the field and 7-for-10 from behind the arc to lead the Prairie Wolves to an 88-81 win and just the fourth victory vs. MLC in team history.
The women continued their run with wins over Briar Cliff University 64-57 and avenged an earlier loss to Concordia University, a team which made the NAIA Division II Final Four in 2005, with a 58-56 victory in Seward.
“The win streak improved the confidence level of the team and made the players believe they could win,” first-year Head Coach Amy Sander said.
Balanced scoring became a hallmark of this team. The Prairie Wolves had seven different players lead the team in scoring, and they all averaged between seven and 12 points per game for the season. Nebraska Wesleyan’s No. 3 team ranking in turnover margin among GPAC schools (+2.3 compared to -4.4 last season) and No. 5 conference ranking in assists are further signs of the team’s improvement.
Point guard Samantha Porter contributed greatly to both of these statistics with 113 total assists, which ranks second on the NWU single-season charts. Porter also moved into the No. 3 spot all-time for career assists at Nebraska Wesleyan with 285. She led the in assist-to-turnover ratio and was third in total assists. At season’s end, Porter received All-Conference honorable mention for her efforts.
Another highlight was NWU’s 72-63 win over Mt. Marty College at home on Jan. 28. Forward Devan Aschtgen led the team in scoring against the Lancers with 20 points and contributed seven rebounds in the win. Aschtgen, who was later named All-GPAC Second Team, finished the season as the team’s top scorer and rebounder, averaging 12 points and 5.8 boards per game.
Three days later, Nebraska Wesleyan nearly upset No. 10-ranked Doane College, which went on to qualify for the NAIA Division II Championship. In fact, the Prairie Wolves were ahead by nine points with less than eight minutes remaining in the game before falling 56-53. NWU split its last four conference games and finished with seven GPAC wins, the most since 2000-01.
In late February, the women wrapped-up the season at the four-team Division III Independent Tournament in Colorado Springs, where NWU stunned regionally-ranked and top-seeded Chapman University 91-67. Senior Angie Schlecht contributed a career-high 33 points, going 12-for-18 from the field against the Panthers, who later received a bid to the NCAA Div. III Championships.
Schlecht followed up with a 27-point showing the following evening in the championship game, a 73-68 overtime loss to Colorado College. She and fellow senior Christine Johnson were named to the All-Tournament Team, and Schlecht was also named Association of Division III Independents Player of the Week, after averaging 30 points and 6.5 rebounds during the tournament.
“(This season) was a good start toward where we want to be,” Sander said.