This year’s Buena Vista women’s basketball roster may have more overall youth than in recent years, but that hasn’t slowed down the preparation of the team as it looks to rebound in 2012-13 after missing out on the Iowa Conference Tournament for the first time last season.
Head coach Janet Berry, who’s beginning her 21st season at the helm, has been pleased with how her team has made strides during the first few weeks of practice.
“There’s been a lot of teaching taking place early on,” she says. “The ladies, however, are picking up on the detail quickly, and we’re excited to get out there to start the year and see where we’re at.”
Despite losing her top-two scorers from a year ago in Jessica Christensen (13.6ppg) and Laura Hilby (11.9ppg), Berry does have four of her next five scorers back.
Junior Susan Kies (Fonda, Iowa/Newell-Fonda), who was third on the team in scoring (11.0ppg) returns, as does junior Malarie Gilley (Grand Junction, Iowa/East Greene), who averaged 6.0 points and 4.4 rebounds over 13 minutes per outing. Senior captains Brooke Wehle (Denison, Iowa/Denison-Schleswig) (7.2ppg) and Tara Lehner (Le Mars, Iowa/Le Mars) (3.4ppg) are two of the team’s three seniors, along with Heather Hansman (Westside, Iowa/Ar-We-Va).
“I truly believe we can do great things this season,” says Wehle. “I’m really looking forward to the challenges that are ahead and think that all of the freshmen have been working hard and picking up the fast play nicely.”
“I’m just chopping at the bit to get going,” says Lehner. “I want to get right to the conference schedule, so it’s going to be different not starting that portion until after Christmas. But I’m really looking forward to just getting out on the floor and being a strong defensive presence out there.”
Kies enters this season also ranked 14th on BVU’s all-time three-point list with 75 made buckets, including 45 a year ago which was 11th-most in a single-season. Wehle, meanwhile, dished out a career-high and team-leading 84 assists, ranking her third in the league in assists per game (3.36). Lehner was more notable for her play on the defensive end where she hauled in nearly five boards per game and also totaled more than 30 steals. Gilley chipped in with 27 blocks – seventh-highest total in BVU history.
“Our captains have done a great job of working us hard to get ready for the season,” adds Keis. “Our freshmen have stepped up and have been asking questions to better improve themselves. We’re all ready to get started.”
“We’re going to bring in a balanced team and have about seven players who can score in double-figures on any given night,” adds Berry. “Our main focus heading into the year is going to be consistency.”
Berry is excited about what the freshman class has brought to the table thus far and feels a number of them could see significant playing time throughout the year.
Jasmyn Flynn (Council Bluffs, Iowa/Abraham Lincoln) will see playing time off the bench to add more depth to the post, and Berry likes how she’s pushing everyone down low to be better.
“She’s got a big, strong frame and is doing really well defensively,” she adds. “She’s pushing people like Gilley and Heather to be better, and in turn, it’s making her that much better too.”
Lexie Fisher (Glenwood, Iowa/Glenwood) and Melissa Greve (Arcadia, Iowa/Ar-We-Va) look to add depth in the front court, and each has the ability to score points.
“I’ve known Melissa along time, and she can really shoot it,” says Berry. “Lexie is a really talented player herself and has the ability to just make plays.”
The Beavers will open their 2012-13 campaign in St. Louis, Mo., when they compete in the McWilliams Classic, hosted by Washington University on November 16 and 17. The team will face the host Bears in the second game on Friday night at 7:00pm. Lake Forest College and Ohio Northern tip-off in the early game with the two losers facing off on Saturday at 5:00pm and the two winners at 7:00pm.
“We’re honored to have the chance to go down and play in a tournament against teams we don’t normally see during the year,” says Berry. “It’ll be an exciting trip and we hope to go down and play well and see where we’re at.”
The team will then host its own BVU Classic the following weekend, opening with Northland College on November 23 at 7:30pm before taking on Gustavus Adolphus on November 24 at 3:00pm. Iowa Conference play doesn’t tip-off this season until after the New Year, as BVU will open with a home game against Simpson College on January 5.
Berry feels that it’s still too early to predict how the conference race will play out this year, but thinks a number of teams could be in the race at the end.
“Our league seems to have a lot of parity,” she says. “I think Loras and Coe will be right up there, but Simpson is also a team you can never rule out. We look forward to seeing how it all plays out.”
Check out photos of our student-athletes in action in the Beaver sports photo galleries.