Tigers look to return to fast-paced play
After a down year last season, Iowa Wesleyan College women's basketball coach Steve Williamson is looking for a return to a style of basketball that has earned the Tigers winning seasons and postseason success in the past.
"We want to get out there and run, play more up-tempo, more in transition," Williamson said. "We want to play pressure defense, full-court defense."
In order to do so, the Tigers will need some new players to step up.
"We're looking at a lot of new players," Williamson said. "Karla Vietinghoff can shoot the ball well, inside and outside. Whitney Godden can also shoot well, and that's something we missed last year."
The Tigers shot 37.4 percent from the field last year, and 25.2 percent from beyond the arc. They averaged 51.2 points per game and allowed an average of 61.7 points per game.
They lost top scorer Ashley Kruse, a post player who averaged 14.5 points per game. Kruse, a senior last year, also led the team with 7.2 rebounds a game.
The team’s second-leading rebounder, Michelle Price, graduated, along with guard Danielle Des Jardins.
"(Newcomer) Dakota Flesner will be a good guard for us — she's a smart player," Williamson said.
Flesner is getting back into basketball shape after leading the IWC volleyball team with 135 kills this fall, 61 more than her closest teammate.
The Tigers also have a few key players from last year returning to the basketball court this season.
"(Stephanie) Russak and Jana Meister are coming back," Williamson said. “And Mariah Sartorius helps us inside, with a post presence."
Meister was the team’s second-leading scorer last season, averaging 11.1 points per game. Russak was second to Des Jardins with 38 assists last year, and Sartorius was third in rebounds with 80 on the season.
The Tigers will look to make their mark in their first year in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC).
“Right now, we're just trying to get the program back on track after last year — it was one of the worst seasons we've had since I've been here," Williamson said. “(But) we want to show we can compete (in the conference).”
More importantly, Williamson — who is aided by assistant coach and former IWC standout Anna Jones — said he wants to see the team work hard and pick up the pace of the game in order to improve.
“Our goals this year are to get better in practice every day and compete night in and night out with the teams on our schedule,” Williamson said. “I feel we have a team that can be competitive and successful. But to do it, we’ll need to develop the attitude that we are going to outwork other teams.”
The Tigers played an exhibition game at Maryville University-St. Louis last weekend, and they start their official regular-season schedule tomorrow (Saturday).
They open at home against Waldorf. Tipoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. in Ruble Arena.