Women’s basketball returns with experience and depth

After going 17-11 last season with a second-round knockout in the NSIC tournament, the Augustana women’s basketball team looks to continue its historic stretch of winning seasons under Head Coach Dave Krauth this year.

However, they’ll have a delayed start and fewer games to do so this time around. The NCAA announced in May that Division II would have shortened seasons for the 2020-2021 year. 

“COVID-19 has altered our timeline, but I do not think it has had a negative impact,” junior guard Vishe’ Rabb said. “Everyone works hard and has committed to finding our team identity and chemistry before we get to normal season events.”

The former NSIC Freshman of the Year will be one of the top returners for the Vikings this winter after going down with a season-ending injury just six games into last season. In those six games, Rabb averaged a team-high 14.2 points per game in just over 24 minutes a game. 

The Vikings will return to the court this year without multiple starting players, NSIC Defensive Player of the Year Hana Beyer and Second Team All-NSIC selection Abby Hora graduated alongside McKenzee Zilverberg and Danni Honner, who combined for 23 starts last season. 

“We lost four excellent seniors from last year,” Krauth said. “The South Division in the NSIC is loaded with teams that aren’t dealing with graduation losses. These veteran teams certainly have a leg up in this year with the virus.”

The team will look to make offensive adjustments, along with implementing a deeper minutes rotation to adjust to the lack of preparation and the loss of the seniors.

“We collectively decided that our offense was going to have a lot of variation, so we are harder to scout this year,” Rabb said. “We have great chemistry, so our ball movement and comprehensive defense will hopefully set us apart.” 

Even with key departures, the team will return eight players who averaged over 10 minutes per game last season. 

“We are a young team with only one returning starter,” redshirt sophomore center Lizzy Karp said. “But last year was riddled with injuries and unfortunate circumstances, so I feel that we will still perform really well this year.”

Other key returners for the Vikings include senior guard/forward Hannah Mitby, who averaged 23.2 minutes and 10.6 points per game last year, and redshirt sophomore forward Aislinn Duffy, who returned just over 22 minutes a game and 8.8 points per game. 

“We have several young players who could be major contributors,” Krauth said. “Vishe’ Rabb is coming off a knee injury that sidelined her most of last year, and her situation will be another key for us.” 

The extra time before game one will be helpful especially for those that haven’t had to quarantine. Unfortunately for the Vikings, they have already had two delays in practice due to COVID-19. 

“When you look at it from a quality workouts perspective, we are naturally well behind in preparation compared to if we’d been COVID-free,” Krauth said. “So, we’ll be cutting corners and trying to get them fast-tracked in a number of areas.”

The schedule for the season has not yet been finalized due to testing requirements from the conference being released soon. Once the conference gets confirmation on the requirements, then the schedule can be written. However, games will not be able to be played until Jan. 1. The NSIC season will conclude with the conference tournament, which will take place from Feb. 25 through Feb. 28 at the Sanford Pentagon.

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