Women’s basketball set to make WNIT run in 2007-2008

Travis Kriens

Travis Kriens

The South Dakota State women’s basketball team is coming out of one of the most memorable and unforgettable seasons ever. To repeat the magic of last year will be no easy task.

The first nine games of the regular season will see the Jackrabbits face off against teams that reached the postseason last season.

“The teams that we play this year are very good, and we know that if we don’t play well we will get beat,” said Aaron Johnston, who enters his eighth full season as head coach. “It’s a big challenge, but hopefully those teams look at us as a tough team, too. The tough early season schedule should better prepare us for conference play.”

SDSU returns 10 letterwinners from last season, including four of the five starters. Megan Vogel, the lone senior on last year’s team, is now a graduate assistant.

The Jacks’ depth has been tested early as junior forward Jennifer Warkenthien and sophomore center Laura Nielson have been sidelined with injuries. Both are expected back sometime in December.

“Depth and balance are our two biggest strengths coming into the season,” said Johnston. “We are a little thin inside right now, but the depth on the perimeter is good. Our depth has helped us get to 2-0 and if we were not a deep team, we would have had more problems early on.”

Sophomores Ketty Cornemann and Maria Boever have stepped up to fill the post positions as each have had double digits in points for the Jacks in the first two games. This season, they have already set career highs for points in a game.

“Ketty has improved this season as well as having to take on more of a scoring role this season, which I think is the hardest thing to do as a player,” said Johnston. “Maria has also improved and has earned a starting spot this season regardless of the injury situation.”

Center Courtney Grimsrud is one of two seniors on this year’s team. She was second on the team last year in rebounds and first in blocks. Grimsrud currently stands seventh on the SDSU career blocks list and is on pace to finish her career in the third spot.

Junior forward Stacie Oistad is leading the team in points early this season, scoring 19 points per game through the first two.

Junior Morgan Meier has already made an impact this season by forcing a second overtime Sunday against UC Riverside with a putback layup with no time remaining.

On the perimeter, senior Andrea Verdegan will provide leadership as well as play either guard position. She is looking to crack the top 10 for career three pointers made at SDSU. Junior Ashlea Muckenhirn can also play both guard positions and was one of four players to start all 31 games last season. Sophomore Alison Anderson will be the backup point guard, adding quickness to the Jackrabbit offensive attack.

Incoming freshmen looking to contribute right away are Macie Michelson, Kristin Rotert and Jennifer Schuttloffel. Michelson will see time at the point guard spot, while Rotert will provide scoring off the bench. Schuttloffel will come off the bench as a forward adding more depth inside.

The Jackrabbits currently have a 14- game regular season winning streak, the second longest in school history.

SDSU will be in a conference this season for the first time in four years, as they become full time members of the Summit League. The women’s basketball team was picked third in the 10-team league in the preseason poll. Even though SDSU got the most first place votes (14), Oral Roberts and Oakland received the top two spots.

“Oral Roberts and Oakland have traditionally been at the top,” Johnson said, “and from there the middle of the league (four or five teams) is really balanced with not much difference between them. It will be interesting to see where we fit in.”

The Jacks are in their final year of transition to Division I, so they will not be eligible for the NCAA Tournament. However, the WNIT is still in play.

The two big goals for the team this year is to win a conference championship and to get back to the WNIT, Johnston said.