The Bemidji State University women's basketball team will begin practice on Friday afternoon with a two-hour session from 1 p.m.-3 p.m. at the BSU Gymnasium. The Beavers will begin their preparations for a schedule that kicks off on Oct. 28 with a home exhibition against Jamestown College at 7 p.m. BSU will then head to recent NCAA Division I tournament stalwart South Dakota State on Nov. 4 before the beginning to the regular season on Nov. 16 against Mayville State at BSU Gymnasium.
BSU has a lot of reasons to be excited as they get set to commence the 2010-11 season. The Beavers return almost everyone to their roster following a much improved season in 2009-10. The Beavers used a core of returning players supplemented by strong play from several new bodies to improve their standing after finishing in last place a year prior.
“I think there is a lot of optimism coming into this season,” said head coach Mike Curfman.“Last year we played a lot of young players and had a lot of young players step up. We had a big improvement last year, not only in wins but in getting back to where we have been competition wise. It was fun to see.”
Along with a strong group of returning players the Beavers will welcome seven new players to the fray this season with four guards, two forwards and one center entering the picture for BSU this season.
“The same core we had last year returns,” Curfman said. “Only one senior (Kim Rosecrans) graduated from our team last year. We feel that the players coming back along with the amount of pressure that we feel will be put on them by the newcomers will help build on the momentum we had last year and help carry us through as we try to bring the program to the next level.”
While BSU will rely on a core of underclassmen this season, it will look for guidance from two seniors who played key roles for the squad in 2009-10. Anna Hebrink and Colleen McKay are two players that coach Curfman and his staff are looking to have much improved seasons in their final year of competition at BSU.
“Both Anna and Colleen have done well in the past and had success, but now as seniors we are looking for them to be the ones to lead the charge for us,” Curfman said. “They have been doing a fantastic job for us so far in preseason conditioning. They have been great leaders by example and great leaders with how they get others motivated. I think it starts with your seniors and we have two seniors that are going to play prominent roles on the team this year.”
Look for an intense competition to be in the works between several returnees and new talent at the guard position as the new season embarks. The Beavers have a lot of uncertainty surrounding the guard position but that doesn’t temper the excitement about the talent in abundance for the BSU squad.
“I look at the guards and the ones that we know for sure, unless something happens, are Hebrink and Sydney Epema,” Curfman said. “They played a lot of minutes last year for us and did a great job. Everyone else is kind of on an even playing field. It could be one of the freshman that comes in and steps up. Sydney and Anna, along with Shannon Thompson and Samantha Baldwin are really the returnees that played a lot of minutes for us last year.”
Epema and Hebrink were both starters for the Beavers last season. Epema was the team’s second-leading scorer averaging 9.9 points per game and shooting 37.1 percent from beyond the arc. Hebrink tallied 7.0 points per game after transferring to Bemidji State from Riverland Community College. Thompson and Baldwin each saw the floor frequently for the Beavers coming off the bench.
“Shannon could end up being our point guard,” Curfman said. “She is someone who contributed a lot for us last year. She is so fast and so quick. As for Samantha, two years ago she was our leading rebounder. Sam is one of those players that has a nose for the basketball. We are moving more toward a motion-type offense and I am excited to see how Sam responds. I think that type of offense is going to fit her style of play very well.”
Along with the returnees, BSU will also look to three or four newcomers at the guard position. The most likely place for the new faces to see time might be at the point guard position as the Beavers are uncertain who will be the go-to player at that position.
“Jordyn Hover and Melissa Borstner, two of the freshman, both played point guard in high school,” Curfman said. “Both of them have come in and done a nice job for us. Morgan Lee is a player that can kind of play the one and two positions for us. She has great fundamentals. Then we have Ellie Wessling at the wing position. We need to get to the basket more as a team and Ellie is someone that can get to the basket. I saw her get to the free throw line 17 or 18 times in a high school basketball game.”
Becky Crummy and redshirt freshman Tiffany Van Haaften, a two-sport athlete, will also add depth for the Beavers at the guard position.
Look for Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference All-Freshman selection Jessie Althoff to lead the way at the forward position for the Beavers. Althoff, who led the team with 10.1 points per game as a freshman, will team with fellow returnee Taylor Davis as the top options for Bemidji State at the forward position.
“Jessie is one of those players that can do multiple things for us,” Curfman said. “She can play both inside and outside for us. Jessie can face the basket but also has a great outside shot. She has a certain tenacity about her and compeitiveness.”
Davis, a junior, averaged 7.1 points and 2.8 rebounds. The Beaver forward put up the highest individual scoring performance of the season with 31 points against St. Cloud State (Jan. 9)
“Taylor is a shooting guard in a post’s body,” Curfman said. “She plays more of a post for us but she can score. The one thing we have talked to Taylor about is that she needs to be able to get to the free throw line more. She shot 90-percent from the free throw line last year but she only got there 30 some times. We need her to get to the line more because she is so good at it.”
BSU will also look to freshmen Wessling and Alicia Underwood as options at the forward position. Wessling is a wing player, with the ability to play several positions including forward.
McKay will anchor a very talented group of post players heading into the 2010-11 season. McKay, who averaged 6.9 points and 4.1 rebounds as a junior, will look to build on those numbers this season. McKay will be pushed by Althoff, who will see time at both the four and five positions as a sophomore, along with newcomer Kate Warmack from East Grand Forks, Minn. Warmack, a 6-2 post, is a versatile player with both length and good touch.
“Kate has great touch and great hands and works extremely hard. Emily Kaus, our 6-2 freshman from last year is out this year with a shoulder injury,” Curfman said. “She had surgery in the offseason and will lose an entire season. So someone like Kate will be looked upon even more. She was probably going to play already but now she is going to see the floor even more. It is exciting because I think Kate is going to be up for the challenge.”
The Bemidji State University women’s basketball team will begin its 2010-11 schedule with two exhibition matches hosting Jamestown College on Oct. 28 and travelling to perennial NCAA Division I tournament participant South Dakota State on Nov. 4.
The Beavers will play four nonconference games, hosting Mayville State University (Nov. 26) and the College of St. Scholastica (Dec. 7) and facing California University (Pa.) (Dec. 19) and Grand View College (Dec. 20)at the Mankato Tip-Off Tournament.
In conference play, BSU will play 22 games as part of the new schedule for all teams in the NSIC, with 11 of those games held at the BSU Gymnasium.
“We all know if it’s not the top conference, the NSIC is definitely right there,” Curfman said. “Every night you have to be able to bring your best game.”