The South Dakota State University women’s basketball team started their season where magic lives, Disney World. However, they have taken that magic and turned it into skill, determination and eight Jackrabbit victories.
SDSU is currently ranked 13th in the nation and holds an 8-1 record after nine non-conference games.
The first three wins came at the Disney Division II Tip-Off Classic in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Jacks defeated Fort Valley State, Ga., Columbus State, Ga., and Southern Indiana to claim the championship.
Other wins for SDSU in the pre-season have been against Minnesota-Crookston, Bemidji State, Winona State, Minnesota-Duluth and Northern State. The Jacks suffered a two-point loss to Concordia of St. Paul.
Opening the conference season this weekend against UND and NDSU will provide a challenge for the Jackrabbits. The North Dakota schools are traditionally strong and competitive. Both have been playing well early on this season.
“North Dakota is still the team to beat,” said Johnston. “They were ranked first in the pre-season polls and they have several returning players and two new transfers.”
Johnston is confident the Jacks can beat both UND and NDSU if they play aggressively, have the right mindset and work together as a team.
“Not a darn bit of tradition will help them win in Frost Arena,” said Johnston. “We need to forget about tradition and get in the mindset that this years team can beat both teams if we do what we are capable of.”
With the NCC season starting, the Jacks will be facing some tougher competition than in the pre-season. Other teams in the NCC include Augustana, Minnesota State-Mankato, Morningside, Nebraska-Omaha, Northern Colorado, South Dakota, and St. Cloud State. Many rivals are back and SDSU looks forward to taking their game to the opponent and proving their ability.
“The quality of the offensive players in the North Central Conference is very good. They can create their own shots,” said Johnston. “This puts pressure and a challenge on the defense to stop them from scoring.”
The Jacks know exactly where they stand going into conference play. South Dakota State was 6th in the pre-season conference polls. Johnston sees this as extra motivation for the Jacks to rise to the top.
“We are not expected to be a top team. It will be an uphill battle, but proving what we can do will be fun for both the players and fans.” said Johnston.
Several individuals have been key players in early games for the Jacks. Brenda Davis, Melissa Pater, Sarita DeBoer have led SDSU in scoring this season.
“Pater plays well offensively. She gets some easy baskets in the post position,” said Johnston.
“DeBoer has been strong inside and a good rebounder.”
The Jackrabbits take on UND on Friday in Frost Arena. On Saturday they return to action as they host the NDSU Bison. Both games begin at 6 p.m. These are the final home games in 2001.