Women’s basketball looks to build with new faces

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Austin Svehla, Staff Writer

Wayne State women’s basketball aims to be locked and loaded for their season opener on Nov. 9 at home against Northwest Missouri State and for the remainder of their 2018-2019 season under first-year head coach Brent Pollari. The first week of practice is in the books and there are plenty of new faces in the program.

The Wildcats are coming off a 2017-2018 season in which they compiled 25-7 record with an 18-4 record in conference play, which was good for a second-place finish in the NSIC South Division. This year’s team returns two starters and was picked to finish 10th in the NSIC Women’s Basketball Preseason Coaches Poll.

“We just talk about each individual personally getting better,” Pollari said. “We don’t talk a lot about what our record should be, we just want to improve every day.”

This year’s roster consists of three seniors (Andrea Larson, Maggie Lowe, and Taylor Reiner). Larson played in all 32 games during the 2017-2018 season and saw three starts at forward. She posted a 6.9 point per game average and had nine double-digit scoring performances. Lowe also saw action in all 32 games last year and started eight of those games at point guard. She averaged 5.8 points per game and led the team with 46 steals and was second on the team with 84 assists. Reiner appeared in 27 games as a backup center last season and shot 50% from the field on the season.

The Wildcats also have three juniors on this year’s roster (Evelyn Knox, Elizabeth Osbourn, and Taylor Wangerin). Knox averaged 10.9 minutes per game last season and appeared in all 32 games. She averaged 3.3 points per contest and shot 43% from the field on the season. Osbourn sat out last season as a redshirt but spent two seasons at Yuba College in California where she earned All-Bay Valley Conference honors averaging 13.9 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.

Wangerin appeared in 24 games as a reserve center during the 2016- 2017 season and appeared in 18 games last season.

The five sophomores on the roster include Brittany Bongartz, Halley Busse, Erin Norling, Selena Shady, and Haley Vesey. Bongartz appeared in every game last season, averaging 6.5 points and 3.1 rebounds per game while posting a 51% mark from the field. Busse also played in every game last season, starting 24 of those at point guard while averaging 5.8 points and 2.2 assists per game. Norling started 29 games at forward last season and was named to the NSIC All-Freshmen Team, averaging 9.1 points and 3.8 rebounds per contest. Shady is a transfer from North Iowa Area Community College, where she posted 5.3 points per game on 42% shooting last season. Vesey appeared in 26 games as a reserve guard last season for the Wildcats, averaging 2.7 points per game.

“[Erin] Norling is statistically probably the strongest player coming back, she’s definitely one to look out for” Pollari said. “Our seniors are players to look out for also. There are a lot of opportunities for a lot of people who didn’t really log a lot of minutes last year.”

Filling out the Wildcat roster this year are three freshmen (Kylie Hammer, Amelia Ivester, and Autumn Mlinar). Hammer attended Wayne High School, where she averaged 20.2 points per game to earn Lincoln Journal Star Class C-1 Second Team All-State honors. Ivester is a graduate of Xavier High School in Cedar Rapids, Iowa where she was a four-year starter and averaged 7.2 points a game. Mlinar attended Maple Grove High School in Maple Grove, Minnesota where she averaged 15.3 points per game her senior season.

There are marquee games in both the non-conference and conference schedule for the Wildcats, but Pollari doesn’t see himself looking at some games as more important than others.

“There are rivalries and in-league games we have to play, but our only focus needs to be on the next game,” Pollari said. “We’re trying to be the best we can be every day and get better every day. We don’t want to look too far ahead.”

Pollari stressed the need for improvement each and every day and also noted that being a firstyear coach requires installing new ideas and the players buying in to changes.

“I knew that they played a 2-3 zone their entire existence,” Pollari said. “Teaching man principles so they have other defensive options is important. The team is picking it up with a positive attitude and they’re working hard every day. They pick things up pretty quick.”