On Saturday, the Augustana Vikings women’s basketball team picked up a win in a 77-58 contest against Southwest Minnesota State University, marking the 22nd win of the season.
With only two losses, the 22-2 record signals the best start for the program since the 2012-2013 season.
Head coach Dave Krauth, in his 28th season at the helm of the Vikings squad, says the team’s experience has been a catalyst for their success thus far.
“This team is not more talented than some of our best teams we’ve had, but it’s one of the most experienced with a larger senior class than I’ve typically seen,” Krauth said. “We’ve been able to get by in some games that we haven’t played our best, and I think that’s a mark of the effectiveness of our experience.”
The team’s experience certainly shows on the roster sheet, where four out of the five seniors are fifth-year seniors, center Naomi Rust, guard Allie Koehn, and guards Presley and Logan O’Farrel.
“They know each other well, and they know where they are going to be,” assistant coach Mark Stavenger said. “We don’t make the freshmen type of mistakes that you see sometimes from inexperienced players.”
According to senior center Paige Peterson, the squad’s connectedness off the court is key for their level of play.
“We have zero drama and everyone gets along so well,” Peterson said. “We get after it on the court and we are a team that can do that and come back to the locker room after practice and forget whatever happened and have fun. We know how to leave it on the court as many teams don’t.”
In games, the high level of camaraderie gives them the edge over opposing teams.
“Making the extra pass, the right rotation, getting the best looks—this team does a lot of little intangibles that really add up,” said Stavenger. “That’s something that other teams can’t always do out there because they don’t know each other as well.”
Statistics for the season reveal a defensive powerhouse capable of breaking down any opponent’s defense.
The Vikings maintain an average scoring margin of +19.4 over their opponents, while holding the other teams’ shooting to an average of 36 percent.
They create turnovers at every chance available, and collect 12 swipes per game, up nearly 3 steals from the previous three seasons’ averages.
That defensive turnover catalyzes the offense, as the team maintains a +8 turnover margin on the season.
“We tend to be at our best when we create offense with our defense,” said Krauth. “We’re long and athletic and we work hard, so we get a lot of steals. That’s something that has been a trademark of this team for the past few years, but this team really does it well.”
With two games left before postseason play, the Vikings are ready to finish strong and take on the NSIC Tournament.
“We have some high expectations for the rest of the season,” junior center Shelby Selland said. “We obviously want to finish the regular season out strong, but after that we have our sights set on the conference title with hopes of making a run into the regional tournament. We aren’t ready for our season to be done.”
The Vikings last made the NCAA Regional tournament in the 2012-13 season, falling short in 2016-17 with a loss to Winona State University in the NSIC Tournament Final.
“We never have made it to regionals, and we’ve always fallen short in the conference championship,” Peterson said. “I believe with this team, it’s our time to make a run.”