As all coaches are wont to do at the start of the season, third year Hamline mentor Kerri Stockwell has a list of goals she hopes her team will achieve in the 2012-13 campaign. There are the often heard bromides about playing better defense and competing hard at both ends of the floor. But at the top of the wish list is an intangible of which neither Stockwell or her players have much control over.
The Pipers return four starters from the 2011-12 team that played much better than the final record of 7-18 would attest to. Unfortunately, that quartet – Kara Poirier, Je’Naya Brown, (pictured at right) Steph Pilgrim and Jordan Sammons – also averaged an astonishing 30 minutes or more a game apiece. Battered by injuries to such an extent that the Pipers were down to seven players for one game, fatigue was a factor more than anything else last season.
“We were in a lot of close games last year,” Stockwell recalled, remembering one stretch where the Pipers lost four games in 10 days by a total of seven points. “Our lack of depth due to the injuries played a big role in the final record. In just about all of those close losses, we led well into the second half. Even while shorthanded, we played hard and stayed with teams.”
The Pipers are hoping that hard work and some better health will pay off this year. The team has a nice mix of veterans (four seniors and a junior) to go with four sophomores and four first year players.
The returning players have some impressive credentials.
Sammons led the team (and was fourth in the league) in scoring with a 14.3 ppg average. The sophomore got a late start this year on the coirt because she is also a member of the Piper soccer team. But the same thing happened last year. And, after she found her basketball legs, Sammons was hard to stop, earning a spot on the league’s All-First year team as well as Honorable Mention for the All-Conference team.
But she wasn’t the only offensive weapon. Pilgrim, a transfer from Anoka-Ramsey CC, led the league in three-pointers last year with 68 and Poirier, who has been a three-year regular, was fifth with 45. Elevated to a regular starting role last year, Brown was third in the MIAC in steals and seventh in assists.
That is a very good base to build from. Unfortunately, at times last year, that was about all the Pipers had to work with. Rachel Usgaard, who played in 23 games and often was the first player off the bench, may be ready to move up this year. If 6-0 Cassidy Vogt, one of last year’s walking wounded (her season lasted just seven games before being sidelined for the year with an injury.), can regain her feel for the game, she offers the Pipers something that was sorely missing last year – size. “We know we have to rebound better than new did last year,” Stockwell said. “We’re going to be smaller than most teams we play. So we just have to be smarter about how we play teams.”
One veteran face who may help in this regard is Danielle Daniels, a senior guard who was an all-conference player in track and basketball in her prep days at St. Paul Johnson. So may Makenzie Lee, whose playing time increased as the season went on last year and Laura Troftgruben, who joined the team at midseason last year when the injury bug. Although she only appeared in three games, she liked it so much that she gave up playing soccer this year to concentrate on hoops.
Of the newcomers, Emily Behrman is a point guard who can shoot three pointers. Rael Raskovich offers size at 5-10. If they can all stay healthy and Stockwell can rest her starters when needed, it could be a fun winter at Hutton Arena.
Sometimes less really can be more.
The 12-member MIAC field means the Pipers will again play a 22-game conference schedule in 2012-13. That only leaves room for three non-conference games. The first two of those come this weekend when Hamline visits Milwaukee to play in a tournament at Wisconsin-Lutheran. On Friday, they face the host school, winners of the last four Northern Athletic Conference titles (and they are picked to repeat this year). On Saturday, they face either Wisconsin-Stout (7-18 a year ago) or DePauw (27-2 last year). As far as Stockwell is concerned, it’s a forerunner of what her team is likely to see this winter. “This will be a good test because it will be like a MIAC game,” she said.
The Pipers open the conference season November 28 at St. Benedict. The home opener is against St. Thomas on December 1 at 1:00 p.m.
A live video feed of the Pipers games in Milwaukee will be available by clicking here. A live stats feed is also available by clicking here.