Sandy Gholston's 2009 GLIAC Women's Basketball Preview

Sandy Gholston's 2009 GLIAC Women's Basketball Preview

Sandy Gholston is a special writer for the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and former recipient of the GLIAC "Media Service Award."

BAY CITY, Mich. –
It appears the road to the conference championship heads through Houghton this year as Michigan Technological University returns with a dynamite squad that is hungry to live up to its preseason projection as the top Division II women’s basketball team in the nation.

But, this league is not just about the Huskies. While Michigan Tech is the preseason leader, a host of challengers await head coach John Barnes’ squad this season. That list includes Grand Valley State, Hillsdale, Northwood, Findlay, Lake Superior State, Ferris State and others. Tech is loaded with a talented roster highlighted by star forward Katie Wysocky, the preseason 2009-10 GLIAC Player of the Year, and Sarah Stream, a senior and one of the top guards in the league, to lead the way on the hardwood.

In the North Division, Michigan Tech was picked first in the 2009-10 GLIAC Preseason Women’s Basketball Media Poll with 22 first-place votes and 142 points. Grand Valley State University was selected second with two first-place votes and 122 points. In third place was Ferris State University with 74 points, fourth place was Lake Superior State University with 72 point, fifth was Northern Michigan University with 67 points and sixth was Saginaw Valley State University with 27 points.

In the South Division, Northwood University was picked first with 128 points and 16 first-place votes. Hillsdale College, which has suffered some key personnel losses but still some experience back, earned seven first-place votes and a total of 125 points. The University of Findlay, one of the programs on the rise in the GLIAC, was third with one first-place vote and 90 points; Ashland University, which hopes to contend with the top teams in its division, was fourth with 83 points; Wayne State University, which has an outstanding recruiting class hitting the court this season, was fifth with 44 points; and Tiffin University was sixth with 34 points.

Here’s a preview of teams in their projected order of finish according to the 2009-10 GLIAC Preseason Women’s Basketball Media Poll:

North Division

1. Michigan Technological University

Overview: The Huskies have a roster that is indicative of a team that is ranked No. 1 in the nation in Division II to begin the season. From top to bottom, the Huskies are loaded with experience and skill led by Preseason GLIAC “Player of the Year” Katie Wysocky, a standout forward who is not only a big-time scorer, but also a strong rebounder for head coach John Barnes’ club. Handling the ball and running the show is senior guard Sarah Stream. Stream has battled a number of injuries during her career, but she has battled her way back to elite status in the GLIAC. Maria Kasza, Danae Danen and Tara Ferris are among the players who add experience to the MTU squad. Michigan Tech boasts one of the strongest Division II women’s basketball traditions around. The Huskies begin the preseason ranked No. 1 in the USA Today/ESPN/Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Division II Preseason Poll.

Coaching: John Barnes is in his seventh season as the head women’s basketball coach at Michigan Tech University.

Coach Barnes: “We have everyone back, but we lost one player in Alicia Schneider, who is playing volleyball. Having five starters back is nice. I am looking all the rosters right now and seeing a lot of returning talent and some Division I transfers so, I know it’s going to be tough every night and you better come ready to play.”

2008-09 Record: 27-8 overall, 19-3 GLIAC

2. Grand Valley State University

Overview: The Lakers are coming back with one of the more talented rosters in the GLIAC this season with four returning starters. Led by two top-notch freshmen (point guard Jasmine Padin and shooting guard Emma Veach) last season, Grand Valley showed flashes of being an elite team. Padin, who averaged 12.6 points, and Veach, who averaged 13.5 points, are back and again expected to lead the way. Head coach Janel Burgess also has Elizabeth Van Tiflin, Maddie Burnett, Kara Crawford and others returning for the Lakers this winter. Like Michigan Tech, the Lakers have earned some preseason national rankings as they were tabbed 13th in the nation by the Division II Bulletin. The Lakers, who have been young in recent years, have gained some experience and hope to put that to good use on the hardwood this season under Coach Burgess.

Coaching: Janel Burgess is in her third season as the head women’s basketball coach at Grand Valley State University.

Coach Burgess: “We’re extremely excited to kick off another competitive year. Excited to have eight returning letterwinners and they’ve each done a great job of displaying a lot of passion and purpose for what we’re meant to do on the court.”

2008-09 Record: 20-10 overall, 15-7 GLIAC

3. Ferris State University

Overview: Ferris State returns a very young squad to do battle in one of the toughest NCAA Division II women’s basketball conferences. The Bulldogs’ lone senior is 6-foot-2 center Andrea Clancy, who suffered an injury in an exhibition game and is expected to be out for the season. Beyond Clancy, the Bulldogs are pretty young in the paint with freshmen 6-foot-1 Katy Fox and 6-foot Leah Kebler expected to pay some early dividends for head coach Tracey Dorow. But, FSU is not without experience in the backcourt. Players that Ferris States hopes can step up and put some points on the scoreboard include: Becci Houdek, a junior guard; Kelsey DeNoyelles, a highly-touted sophomore; Tricia Principe, another sophomore, Lindsey Pettit, also a sophomore; and freshman Kylie Muntz. Of that group, Houdek has the most experience and is likely to garner more minutes that should lead to greater production. Tiara Adams, an athletic sophomore forward, and Amy Joostberns, a junior frontcourt player, return up front with experience.

Coaching: Tracey Dorow is entering her 12th season as the head women’s basketball coach at Ferris State University.

Coach Dorow: “Really excited about the season. We lost all five starters from last season. Tiara Adams is playing really well. She is a very athletic and very exciting player. Becci Houdek is back and playing really well right now. We’re excited about the fresh new faces we have.”

2008-09 Record: 13-15 overall, 10-12 GLIAC

4. Lake Superior State University

Overview: The Lakers are back with a squad led by Emily Joseph, who is one of the better guards in the GLIAC and LSSU’s top-returning scorer (she averaged 9.9 points a year ago). Joseph also proved adept at setting up her teammates as she was the fourth-ranked player in the GLIAC in assists at 4.5 per contest and 10th in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.2). In addition to Joseph, Lake Superior State welcomes back a pair of junior guards in Ronlea Peterson and Nicole Marshall. Last winter, Lake Superior State finished with a record of 16-15 Laker team and placed fourth in the North Division of the GLIAC as it ended up 9-13.

Coach: Jamie Pewinski is in her fourth year as the head women’s basketball coach at Lake Superior State University.

Coach Pewinski: “We are returning eight players and three returning starters. We have got three freshmen we’re excited to put in the mix. We’re not going to be very deep, but we’re expecting big things.”

2008-09 Record: 16-15 overall, 9-13 GLIAC

5. Northern Michigan University

Overview: The Wildcats finished 14-14 last season overall and 9-14 in the GLIAC, but hope to sneak above the .500 mark this winter under head coach Troy Mattson. NMU does have some experience returning led by veteran guard Holly Cole, senior guard who has paid her dues over the years in the NMU program; Christa Erickson, a very good 3-point shooter, who shot .397 from outside of the arc; and senior center Angie Leckson, who averaged 6.1 points and 4.4 rebounds. Steffani Stoeger is back after averaging 7.7 points for the Wildcats last season, shooting .354 from the 3-point line and starting in 26 of 27 games. Another player who could make an impact for the Wildcats this season is 5-foot-10 sophomore guard Elicia Derusha, a transfer from Division I Wisconsin-Green Bay, who is a U.P. native of Escanaba.

Coaching: Troy Mattson is entering his fourth season as the head women’s basketball coach at Northern Michigan University.

Coach Mattson: “We have four starters retuning and seven of our top 10 back. We have two transfers who might be able to help us out a little bit.”

2008-09 Record: 14-14 overall, 9-14 GLIAC

6. Saginaw Valley State University

Overview: Saginaw Valley State is hoping to build off of a challenging season during the 2007-08 campaign. The Cardinals have suffered some losses of talent, but they also have veterans with playing experience returning in Kelley Wesp, who started 25 of 27 games last season and averaged 8.1 points. Marah Kyle, a 5-foot-10 guard also is back after averaging 8.8 points during her freshman season last winter. Jenna Saarela also is back for Saginaw Valley and could take on an even greater role this season for head coach Shannon Baugh’s squad. In the paint, SVSU is hopeful 6-foot-3 center Grace Herzog will have an impact as a freshman. The Cardinals also have added Marsha Beaubien, who was a star on the Saginaw Valley softball team.

Coaching: Shannon Baugh is entering her second season as the head women’s basketball coach at Saginaw Valley State University.

Coach Baugh: “We have seven new players and five are freshmen. It’s good for us to get things started.”

2008-09 Record: 3-24 overall, 2-20 GLIAC

South Division

1. Northwood University

Overview: Northwood had some personnel losses due to graduation, but some of the experts still think pretty highly of what the Timberwolves have coming back for the 2009-10 season. Head coach Jeff Curtis’ squad picked up 24 points in the ESPN/USA Today/WBCA Preseason Top 25 poll and was listed among the Division II Bulletin Top 25 rankings as a team to watch. Northwood returns a healthy dose of experienced players, including 10 of its top 12 from last year 21-8 squad. Earning some preseason all-league honors, senior forward Jodi Ostergren is back to lead Northwood. A year ago, she averaged 15.4 points (as the team’s leading scorer) and 6.3 rebounds. Pam Wilson, a versatile 5-foot-10 forward who averaged nine points and 3.3 rebounds, is back at power forward and Karlie LeRoy, who was good for 6.9 points and 3.7 rebounds a contest, is another returning experienced forward in the Timberwolves’ lineup. The Timberwolves have elevated expectations and a big part of that is the success of the last few seasons under Coach Curtis.

Coaching: Jeff Curtis is entering his fifth campaign as the head women’s basketball coach at Northwood University.

Coach Curtis: “We’re returning 12 players including three of which who started a majority of the time. Karlie LeRoy and Jodi Ostergren we’re really counting a lot on them.”

2008-09 Record: 21-8 overall, 16-6 GLIAC

2. Hillsdale College

Overview: The Chargers graduated a premier player in Katie Cezat, but the expectations remain pretty high for Hillsdale College’s women’s basketball team on the hardwood this season. While Cezat is gone, the Chargers are still fairly stacked in the backcourt led by Brooke Knight and Janay Miller, among others. That dynamite duo ended up on the 2009-10 All-GLIAC South Division team for the preseason. Led in no small part by Knight and Miller, the Chargers compiled a record of 27-4. Knight established a new school single-season record for assists (196) as she emerged as one of the better point guards in the conference. Miller will be one of the players expected to handle some of those Knight assists and turn them into buckets on offense. Chelsea Harrison is another shooter returning to the lineup. On the frontline, head coach Claudette Charney could be relying on Elizabeth Brannick and Katie Bildner, among others, to maintain control in the paint for Hillsdale.

Coaching: Claudette Charney is entering her eighth campaign as head women’s basketball coach at Hillsdale College.

Coach Charney: “We feel we return three very good player in our guard corps. Everybody knows we lost the player of the year, but we’re looking forward to being a little more guard oriented.”

2008-09 Record: 27-4 overall, 19-3 GLIAC

3. University of Findlay

Overview: For the last few years, Findlay has been in rebuilding mode, but this year the Oilers are hopeful the rebuilding process is done and the pursuit of a championship will soon begin. Those players who gained experience in the past are now veterans with plenty of GLIAC experience to their credit. Findlay had two players who earned spots on the 2009-10 All-GLIAC Preseason Team as guards Audra Mihalic, a dynamic senior player, and Laura Bardall, a sophomore, were honored by the league. Mihalic averaged 15.9 points, five assists and 4.1 rebounds to show her all-around skills. Bardall made a strong first impression as she joined the squad and averaged 14.4 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists. Bardall’s 390 points were the most ever scored by a Findlay freshman. As a team, Findlay was picked to finish third in the South Division behind Northwood and Hillsdale, but is hopeful it can beat those odds. The Oilers might have showed how for real they are with a 55-36 win over Division I Eastern Kentucky already this season. In that game, Mihalic scored 19 points and Bardall had 14 points, nine rebounds, five assists and, for good measure, a blocked shot.

Coaching: Kate Cummings is entering her fourth season as the head women’s basketball coach at the University of Findlay.

Coach Cummings: “We have all five starters returning and for the first time we have a couple of other younger players who are pushing for starting positions. We feel really good about our depth Audra Mihalic has really led the charge. We have five seniors in this class and they’re hungry. They are playing this year with a chip on their shoulders.”

2008-09 Record: 14-14 overall, 9-13 GLIAC

4. Ashland University

Overview: With just two returning starters and six letterwinners coming back (five were lost), Ashland hopes youth will be served as it seeks to remain in the thick of the race for the GLIAC South Division title this season. A year ago, the Eagles finished 17-11 overall and 13-9 in the South Division (good for third place in the standings). This year, Ashland hopes to build on some of its success led by Lacy Romine, a senior who last season averaged 9.8 points and shot better than 40 percent from the 3-point line, and Lindsey Gaut, a senior who last season averaged 4.9 points, but was generous to her teammates with 62 assists and tough on opposing ball handlers with 34 steals. With a lot of new faces in the mix, Ashland will be looking to discover and develop team chemistry as it gets started with its 2009-10 college basketball season.

Coaching: Sue Ramsey is entering her 15th season as the head women’s basketball coach at Ashland University.

Coach Ramsey: “It will be a very different look having graduated five seniors including two of which who were around for six years. We have a couple of solid players coming back in the backcourt with Lindsey Gaut and Lacy Romine that we are expecting a lot out of this year.”

2008-09 Record: 17-11 overall, 13-9 GLIAC

5. Wayne State University

Overview: Wayne State appears to have one of the most intriguing rosters in the GLIAC as it hits the floor this season. The Warriors welcome back returning experience led by Brook Bowers, who averaged 11.9 points last season, and Brittany Smith, who put up 9.9 points and grabbed 6.4 rebounds per contest. Where it gets interesting, however, is that WSU has possibly the best recruiting class in the GLIAC with some highly-touted players joining the program of head coach Gloria Bradley. One of the big names in the class is 5-foot-9 guard Tyler Hardy, who was the Ann Arbor News “Player of the Year” last season, and Deanna Crumpton, who was strong with her scoring and on the glass last season at East Kentwood High School. In fact, Wayne State has eight freshmen coming in, a transfer from Oakland Community College and a transfer from Tennessee-Martin.

Coaching: Gloria Bradley is entering her 10th season as the head women’s basketball coach at Wayne State University.

Coach Bradley: “We’re young this year with eight freshmen so it is going to be an interesting year for us, but they’re talented and they’re working hard. Right now, we’re trying to keep them healthy.”

2008-09 Record: 8-20 overall, 5-17 GLIAC

6. Tiffin University

Overview: Last season the Dragons were introduced to just how challenging it is to be successful in the GLIAC. However, Tiffin hopes to use the lessons of 2008-09 to achieve better things during the 2009-10 season. Tiffin is back with six players from last season and that group includes two starters who return in junior guard/forward Holly Focke and sophomore Mandy Jaeb. Jaeb averaged 10.5 points, two assists and two steals. With her speed and quickness she is a threat to push the ball up the court and to be a tough defender on the basketball for opposing teams to contend with as they try to set their offense. Focke, a truly balanced-type player, averaged six points, six rebounds and three assists for the Dragons last season. Katrina Clark will be battling for a position in the starting lineup while Jennifer Johnston and Samantha McCall will be among players eager to prove they can make strong contributions.

Coaching: Pam Oswald is entering her third season on the Dragons’ bench as head coach and last year her team finished 5-10 against GLIAC competition.

Coach Oswald: “We have six newcomers to our team, five returners, two returning starters. Looking forward to the competition and playing in one of the best conferences.”

2008-09 Record: 7-20 overall, 6-16 GLIAC