UWS women's basketball team: Moving on up
The University of Wisconsin-Superior women's basketball team has moved up in the world. Following the best season in school history, the Yellowjackets have earned respect in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. UWS was chosen to fin...
The University of Wisconsin-Superior women's basketball team has moved up in the world.
Following the best season in school history, the Yellowjackets have earned respect in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
UWS was chosen to finish fourth in this year's WIAC preseason poll, and returning player Sally Linzmeier was named a preseason All-American by Women's DIII News.
"Are we getting more respect? Yes," said Donald Mulhern, head coach of the UWS women's basketball team. "But we as a team are in no ways content or satisfied with where we are.
"Our bar is raised high, and the cool thing is it's the girls' internal bar, what they believe in their minds."
The Yellowjackets finished the 2012-13 season with a 19-8 overall record and a 10-6 record in the WIAC.
Four players graduated from last year's team, including three starters, but UWS has a class of seven freshmen and one transfer student ready to fill the void.
"We came off a great season last year and we've got a lot of talent in this year to push ourselves," Linzmeier said. "Combined with what we had last year, I think it's going to be a great season."
Linzmeier leads the Yellowjackets among returning players. She averaged 16.6 points and seven rebounds per game last season as a sophomore. Both marks led the team, and Linzmeier also led UWS in steals, with 3.3 per game.
"She's upped her game from last year, which is quite a statement in and of itself," Mulhern said. "She's really taking on a leadership role on and off the court. She's worked hard to add to her game, and I emphasize the word 'add' because she's trying to do things above and beyond what she did last year. That's a tribute to her pursuit of excellence."
Also back in a starting role for UWS is junior Deandra Vavra. She averaged 7.5 points last season and was a team leader in assists with 3.2 per game.
This year, Vavra will be looked to for increased production at the arc, one of the key areas UWS needs to shore up.
The Yellowjackets lost two key perimeter shooters from 2012-13: Connie Urmanski and Kristen Nett. Together, the two accounted for 67 percent of the 3-pointers made last season.
Along with Vavra, Mulhern expects senior Britnee Blake and sophomores Allie Nelson, Allyssa Lindberg and Grace Kennedy to share time at the perimeter.
"We have a lot of competition for a starting lineup, and that's a good thing," Mulhern said.
Lindberg went 10-for-28 at the arc last season and could be "phenomenal" if she makes more attempts this year, Mulhern said.
"I'm excited for this year," said Blake, the lone senior on the team. "We lost a couple good players, but I think we have a bunch coming up that will be a good asset for the team."
Bryn Liljander, a freshman guard, is one player Blake feels could make an immediate impact for the Yellowjackets.
"I really like her game," Blake said. "She's got a lot of good stuff, so I think she's going to help us out a lot. I love playing against her."
Linzmeier also named Liljander as a player to watch. To that list she also added newcomers Hadley Skalmoski, a sophomore transfer student, and freshman Autumn Ackerman, who will be looked to for rebounding.
"I think teams will overlook us because they think we lost a ton," Linzmeier said. "We lost four great seniors, but we have a lot of talent coming in."
The Yellowjackets are also dealing with some injuries to start the season. Dana Karlstad injured her ankle, and Carmen Watson is out as she recovers from a torn meniscus. Mulhern said Watson has had knee surgery and should be able to return this season.
"We expect her getting going at some point," Mulhern said. "She had flashes of brilliance last year, and our goal is to get her back and get her going. She's a key piece to it once we can get her going."
Watson will give the Yellowjackets some strength in the post, where they are looking to replace Hillary Peterson. Peterson was the second leading rebounder for UWS last year with 4.3 rebounds per game. On defense she had 37 blocks -- 49 percent of the team's total.
Junior Vanessa Lebens is being looked to as a likely successor.
"She's really upped her game," Mulhern said. "She's taken a step forward."
Skalmoski and junior Molly Atherton will also help out in the post.
Home sweet home
Mertz Mortorelli Gymnasium has been a very good place to play for the Yellowjackets in recent years.
Over the past two seasons, the UWS women have compiled a 19-4 record on their home court. The Yellowjackets currently have a 13-game winning streak at home.
"We haven't lost here in a while, and we're hoping to keep it going this year," Blake said. "That's the goal."
Superior's last home loss came to UW-Whitewater on Feb. 11, 2012.
The Yellowjackets went 10-0 at Mertz Mortorelli Gymnasium last year during the regular season and won their home playoff game for an unblemished 11-0 home record in 2012-13.
UWS does not play a home game this year until Dec. 7, when UW-Oshkosh visits. Oshkosh lost its match-up in Superior 66-58 last year after defeating the Yellowjackets 61-41 at UW-Oshkosh earlier in the season.
"I think for a while teams overlooked us, so when we started turning it around they just weren't expecting it," Linzmeier said. "Now we've kind of ordained our home court. This is our home court, and we take pride in that."
In this year's preseason poll, UW-Whitewater was the unanimous pick to win the WIAC title.
Mulhern wouldn't argue with that prediction, but he thinks the next six places are all up for grabs.
"I think coming in, Whitewater legitimately is a consensus favorite; and then our conference after them is really unique," Mulhern said. "There are legitimately, in my mind, six-ish teams that can all battle for the next level. We are right there.
"Stevens Point kind of has the tradition. Oshkosh had a great year, but they did lose a lot of starters."
The sleeper in the group, Mulhern said, is UW- La Crosse.
"La Crosse, that nobody's talking about, had three girls last year that were hurt that are now back," he said. "So I'm simply saying, they're going to surprise people.
"This year I think it's going to be as balanced as it's almost ever been, which for fans is a great thing. For coaches it's a good challenge."
The Yellowjackets open their non-conference season today at the Quinlivan & Hughes Tip-Off Tournament.
UWS Women's 2013-14 Schedule
Quinlivan & Hughes
Fri., Nov. 15 Saint Benedict, 8 p.m.
Sat., Nov. 16 Macalester College, 1 p.m.
Tues., Nov. 19 at UMD, 6 p.m.
Mon., Nov. 25 at St. Scholastica, 5 p.m.
Wed., Dec. 4 at UW-Stout, 7 p.m.
Sat., Dec. 7 vs. UW-Oshkosh, 3 p.m.
Tues., Dec. 10 vs. Northwestern, 5:30 p.m.
Sat., Dec. 14 at Bethany Lutheran, 3 p.m.
Mon., Dec. 30 at Northland, 7 p.m.
Tues., Dec. 31 vs. St. Scholastica, 3 p.m.
Sat., Jan. 4 vs. UW-Platteville, 1 p.m.
Wed., Jan. 8 at UW-La Crosse, 5:30 p.m.
Sat., Jan. 11 vs. UW-Stevens Pt, 1 p.m.
Wed., Jan. 15 vs. UW-Eau Claire, 7 p.m.
Sat., Jan. 18 vs. UW-Whitewater, 3 p.m.
Wed., Jan. 22 vs. UW-River Falls, 7 p.m.
Sat., Jan. 25 at UW-Platteville, 1 p.m.
Tues., Jan. 28 vs. Northland, 7 p.m.
Sat., Feb. 1 at UW-Stevens Pt, 1 p.m.
Wed., Feb. 5 at UW-Eau Claire, 7 p.m.
Sat., Feb. 8 at UW-Whitewater, 3 p.m.
Wed., Feb. 12 vs. UW-Stout, 7 p.m.
Sat., Feb. 15 vs. UW-La Crosse, 3 p.m.
Wed., Feb. 19 at UW-River Falls, 7 p.m.
Sat., Feb. 22 at UW-Oshkosh, 3 p.m.