PREVIEW: Yellowjacket women set the bar highThe Yellowjackets finished 12-14 overall and 5-11 in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference to qualify for the conference playoffs for the first time in eight years. UWS also set a new school record for consecutive games won with a five-game winning streak early in the season.
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
The University of Wisconsin-Superior women’s basketball team had a banner year last season.
The Yellowjackets finished 12-14 overall and 5-11 in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference to qualify for the conference playoffs for the first time in eight years. UWS also set a new school record for consecutive games won with a five-game winning streak early in the season.
Those accomplishments are still fresh in the minds of the UWS women, and the Yellowjackets are setting high standards for the 2012-13 season.
“Our girls have really high expectations,” said Don Mulhern, UWS women’s head coach. “It’s not hopes, it’s expectations; and there’s a difference. A hope is something you dream about. An expectation is working with the idea that this is where we’re going to be because we’ve earned it, and that’s how we’re looking at this year.”
The Yellowjackets have also risen in the eyes of their opponents. The UWS women were picked to finish sixth in this year’s WIAC preseason poll.
“The past three years I think we’ve been (projected as) eighth or ninth every year,” said senior Connie Urmanski. “So it puts a little bit of pressure on us, but I think it’s good pressure because we’re finally being recognized.”
The Yellowjackets were projected to finish at the bottom of the conference for Urmanski’s freshman and sophomore seasons. Last year UWS moved up one place to eighth in the rankings.
Urmanski, the Yellowjackets’ all-time leading 3-point shooter, is one of three seniors on the team this year. Also playing in their final season for the Yellowjackets are Hillary Peterson and Kailee McDonald.
Urmanski averaged 11.1 points per game last season and led the team in 3-point percentage (.374) as well as free-throw percentage (.878). She was the Yellowjackets’ second leading scorer and has the opportunity to surpass 1,000 career points this season. She currently sits at 853 points.
McDonald also returns at guard after starting six games last season. Deandra Vaavra and Sally Linzmeier — both sophomores — round out Superior’s strong corps of returning guards.
Linzmeier was the Yellowjackets’ top scorer last season, averaging 12.7 points per game. She missed the end of the season with an knee injury but was the leading scorer in nine of the 19 games she played as a freshman.
Urmanski was the leading scorer in eight games last season.
“I think with our guard make-up this year, it takes pressure off (me) because anyone can score,” Urmanski said. “That’s something that’s good to have, especially here at Superior, because we haven’t had that and it’s something that we’ve really stressed.”
Another guard returning for the Yellowjackets is Superior High School graduate Britnee Blake. The junior rejoined the team this season after recovering from a knee injury.
“Britnee Blake has looked really good in practice,” Mulhern said. “She worked as hard as anybody this summer to get ready. Her energy and her grittiness has been unreal. We expect her to flat out be a key cog to our success.”
If Superior has a weakness, it comes in the post. The Yellowjackets are working to fill a void inside this year following the graduation of seniors Bri Davis and Hailey Hart. Both averaged double figures in scoring last season and were among the team leaders in rebounding.
“We’re looking for our interior post play to evolve and get better, and there’s several girls that have a good chance to step into those roles and do that,” Mulhern said.
In the mix are Peterson, Vanessa Lebens and a host of freshmen.
Urmanski said three freshmen forwards stand out to her as possible contributors this season: Grace Kennedy, Allyssa Lindberg and Cansis Bodsberg.
“They’ve stepped up and have come in and are smart kids,” Urmanski said. “They know the game, and that’s half the battle. We’ll see how they keep improving, but we definitely have a solid group of freshmen this year.”
On defense the Yellowjackets hope to emulate their namesake with a swarming defense that wears down opponents.
“We’ve got to make the game a full-court game,” Mulhern said. “Our ball pressure is vital.”
Mulhern said UWS will “really extend” its defense and put more intense pressure on the ball at the perimeter.
In the WIAC, Stevens Point and Whitewater are strong again this season, but the Yellowjackets aren’t willing to cede anything to the conference favorites.
“Any given night, any team could knock someone off just because of the style of play,” Urmanski said. “I think if we can show up every night and play we’ll be competitive.”
The UWS women open their season this weekend with a pair of games at the Ripon College Tournament in Ripon, Wis. The Yellowjackets face the host team at 8 p.m. Friday.
The first home game of the season for UWS is the Yellowjackets’ WIAC opener against UW-Stevens Point on Dec. 1. The UWS men play at 3 p.m., followed by the women at 5 p.m.