Seasons change, but expectations don’t

womens-basketball

New season, same expectations for women’s basketball

jacob-belgum

Times change, rosters change, but the Augustana women’s basketball team usually stays consistent, having won at least 20 games in 11 of the last 12 years.

So, despite losing arguably the team’s two best players from last season—guard Sophie Kenney and post Nicole Kerkhoff—expectations remain high.

The Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference coaches picked the Vikings to finish third in the 16-team conference, likely because many experienced players return from last year’s 24-8 squad which fell one win short of the NCAA tournament.

logan-ofarrell“We’re not going to think too much about [the polls],” junior guard Logan O’Farrell said. “But at the same time we want to go out and show teams that we can play well together. It’s just going out there and proving ourselves.”

The Vikings have had prolific ball handlers in recent years, and sophomore guard Lynsey Prosser, who projects to start at point guard, will need to prove she’s ready for that role after playing only 11 minutes per game as a freshman.

Head coach Dave Krauth said that point guard was the team’s biggest question mark heading into the year but said that, if Prosser can limit her mistakes, she can excel.

“That’s kind of been the challenge, hoping that we get as many good plays as we can out of her and really start getting that discipline where we reduce the turnovers or mistakes,” Krauth said of his point guard. “I don’t want to harp on the guard position, but that is the one where we have such limited experience.”

Prosser said that the mental aspect of running the team’s offense will be the most important factor in her play. She said she has some nerves going into the season but trusts the coaches preparation and her own.

“[I need to be] confident with the ball and just try not to overthink things,” she said. “Just take the pressure and deal with it.”

The Vikings normally succeed by pressuring opponents and forcing them into mistakes. They utilize a trapping defense which helped them lead the NSIC in turnover margin last year, turning teams over 5.44 more times per game than they turned it over themselves.

Defense depends more on focus, effort and intensity and is less likely to fluctuate with roster turnover than offense, but it doesn’t hurt that O’Farrell returns after leading the NSIC in steals last year. Her length (she’s 5-foot-11) at the top of the zone leads to a lot of tipped passes.

“We want our taller guards up top making deflections, then making sure everyone knows where to be on the court,” O’Farrell said. “It’s just communication.”

The Vikings’ defensive philosophy will carry over from last year, and their propensity to launch three-pointers likely will, too. They shot 133 more threes than the next closest NSIC team last year, despite shooting the fifth-worst percentage from deep. The volume from created turnovers and offensive rebounding makes up for the misses and “kind of statistically shaded in our favor,” according to Krauth.

“Our goal is to be efficient, and one of my goals for this team is to shoot the basketball better than we did last year,” he said.

O’Farrell promised that she and her teammates will keep launching shots from deep.

“We’re going to keep letting it fly, and hopefully they’ll go in,” she said.

Senior Sydney Rome led the team in three-point attempts last season, shooting nearly seven per game. The team’s posts, like sophomore Shelby Selland and junior Naomi Rust, have the confidence to shoot from outside, too—each shot more than one three per game last year.

Augustana begins its season with three games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday in the CCA Tip-Off Classic hosted at Disneyland. This comes after three weeks of practice.

Krauth highlighted the practice performance of junior guard Presley O’Farrell (Logan’s twin sister) and redshirt freshman guard Hana Metoxen, saying that, among non-starters, they had impressed.

“[Metoxen] is a kid who just does a lot of things—kind of hard-nosed with a nose for the ball as well,” Krauth said.

Krauth, O’Farrell and Prosser all listed a different team strength when asked, with depth, chemistry and shooting being their respective answers. Prosser added that the team’s ability to turn defense into offense was one of its best attributes.

“Our defense fuels our offense, so if we’re having a good game defensively, that’s going to get our fast-paced game going,” Prosser said. “When we have good games, that’s where it comes from, our defense.”

After a tough ending last season, the team is ready to get going.

“We’re excited for this year,” O’Farrell said. “Going through volleyball and football season, we finally get our time to get out on the court, so we’re excited.”

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