Hamline University

New-Look Womens BB Team Ready To Open Against Eagles


It’s one time where having a month of practice before your first game is a very good thing. HU head women’s basketball coach Kerri Stockwell knows the 2011-12 version of the Pipers will look radically different than last year’s contingent that made a late run at the MIAC playoffs.
Exactly how different … and who will end up the scoring and rebounding leaders … is something that won’t be determined until the team has played a few games. The first of those comes up today bat 5:30 p.m. at Hutton Arena against Northwestern (MN).
Mary Wilkowski, last year’s Player Of The Year who was also on the D3hoops.com All-West region team and was an Honorable Mention All-American, has graduated and taken her league-leading scoring average with her. She was also second in the league in rebounding. It’s a force that simply cannot be replaced.
With only two players returning who were regular starters last year, Stockwell said there are great opportunities for players to step into leadership roles.
“What will make us successful is if we can get on the same page as to decision making about things like tempo,” she said. “We’ll definitely run if we can.”
Fortunately for Stockwell, one of those two returning regulars is junior guard Kara Poirier. She connected on 47 three-pointers a year ago and is the top returning assist player with 70. “Her versatility is her strength,” Stockwell notes. “On top of that, she’s a real competitor, a natural on-court leader.”
The other returnee is senior forward Stephanie Rice. At 5-10, she offers size inside (59 defensive rebounds last year) and game day experience. More importantly, she’s healthy. Last year, a back injury sidelined here for the first month of the season. “We’re looking for her to handle the opposing team’s post player,” Stockwell said.
As for the open positions, the names may change often. “It’s going to depend on who we play,” Stockwell said. “We’re going to have be flexible because half the team is new this year.”
There are many options at guard. Steph Pilgrim, a junior who was a main cog for Anoka-Ramsey, last year’s national JC champions, offers a three-point presence and a winning pedigree. Her last-minute long range shot provided the winning points for the Rams last March. “She has had a lot of success on the court,” noted Stockwell. Carly Cathey, a freshman, is another guard possibility. She, too, was a long range bomber in high school in Arizona. Je’Naya Brown played in 24 games last season. Allison Ruter, a terrific athlete from New-London Spicer, Danielle Daniels, a transfer from Des Moines Area CC, Jordan Sammons, who joined the team after a successful soccer season at Hamline and Jasmine Clemons, a sophomore who was on last year’s team, are all in the mix as well.
“It will be depend on the situation as to who plays when,” Stockwell said.
Up front, 6-3 soph Veronika Jakubovie saw action in just nine games last year. But she was able to practice every day against Wilkowski. “She learned a lot from that experience,” Stockwell observed. Cassidy Vogt, a 6-0 junior, can play guard as well as forward. Rachel Usgaard, a 5-8 first-year guard-forward who was the top scorer for West Lutheran last year, is expected to see action as well.
The 22-game MIAC schedule means the Pipers will simply have to dive headfirst into conference competition and do some learning on the fly. “We’re looking for consistency and that can only come from practice and playing games,” Stockwell said.
 A year ago, the Pipers rebounded from a slow start and nearly made the conference playoffs, losing out on a tie breaker to Macalester. Stockwell hopes the lesson from that experience – that every MIAC game matters greatly – sticks with the returnees and is quickly imprinted into the heads of the newcomers. “This is a very tough league,” she said. “Each team is unique in style and that makes it harder to prepare for them. A key for us this season will be to improve defensively and cut down on second chance shots. On offense, we need to get into the right position and establish the tempo we want.”
In the annual MIAC Coaches pre-season poll, Hamline was picked in a tie with St. Catherine for ninth place. The complete conference preview can be found here.