WAYNE – As the official start of practice is set for Friday, the Wayne State College women’s basketball team is grateful for the possibility of a season.
Wildcat women’s basketball players have been able to participate in workouts over the summer before getting together during the fall.
Head Coach Brent Pollari is in his third season leading WSC women’s basketball. He said with the first games not until January, the team has been working on skill and player development.
“That’s my favorite part of the game to coach,” said Pollari. “It’s fun to see people just get better and improve. I think overall as a team we’re a better team and we’re more versatile.”
Wayne State College finished the 2019-20 season with a record of 16-13 overall, placing seventh in the NSIC South Division at 11-11 in league play.
A closed to the public scrimmage was a tightly contested game. The teams were tied at 20 early in the game as the contest went into sudden death with Team Black hitting a three to defeat Team White 42-39 on November 10.
Coach Pollari added it was a competitive scrimmage.
“So, I thought offensively we looked pretty good and maybe that means we need to get better defensively,” Pollari added. “But I thought that kind of goes back to the skills and just being more versatile and having more depth probably on our team here.”
Joining coach Pollari in his third season at the helm is former Wildcat basketball and track & field athlete Kacie O’Connor as the assistant coach and Dalton Smith as the graduate assistant coach.
The Wildcat women have three new additions all being freshman (Annie Guentzel, Aaliyah McMillan and Ella Skinner) replacing three from last year’s team. WSC returns all but 100 of their points from last year’s team which includes the top seven scorers.
Seniors Erin Norling, Halley Busse and Brittany Bongartz along with junior Autumn Mlinar and sophomore Josey Ryan started all 29 games during the 2019-20 season. Norling paced the team with 19.9 ppg and 8.0 rebounds per game while Busse knocked down a team-leading 56 three’s, led the team in free throws (100-117) to go along with 114 assists, 37 steals (tied for team lead with Ryan) and 14 ppg. Bongartz led the team in blocks with 38 while grabbing 6.8 boards per game and finishing with 11.9 ppg. Ryan averaged 7.9 ppg and Mlinar contributed 4.6 ppg.
A key contributor off the bench last year was Wayne-native Kylie Hammer. The now junior averaged 8.4 points per game, had 45 assists and 24 steals last year.
Wayne State College will also be adding six student-athletes to next year’s team according to the WSC Women’s Basketball Twitter page. They include Abby Kopecky of Aberdeen, SD; Avery Kallman of Gretna, NE; Brigid Boyle of Eagan, MN; Delaney Clark of Appleton, WI; Maya Fitzpatrick of Brooklyn Park, MN and Tate Norblade of Papillion, NE.
Coach Pollari mentioned WSC is the only college team that hasn’t played games yet and haven’t had their first official practice.
“We start practice on Friday here,” Pollari mentioned. “So, once they hit after Wednesday they’re going to have about a month and a half of nothing besides basketball going on. That’s where we look to really get after it and start getting into more system stuff and preparing for more games.”
The Wildcat women’s basketball team is scheduled to join the men’s team on Saturday, January 2 and Sunday, January 3 hosting Northern State University.
Coach Pollari said the team was happy to just see the schedule come out.
“The Minnesota schools, which are nine out of the 16 schools in our conference have a lot of different mandates that went into effect last week that could change things,” said Pollari. “Any schedule we can get, any games we can play we’re happy to. We talked to this year about being a team that’s get-to and whatever we get to do we’re thankful for.”
Other games currently on the schedule include a home doubleheader against Concordia-St. Paul on January 8-9; at Minnesota State-Mankato on January 15-16; vs. Upper Iowa on January 22-23; at Winona State on January 29-30; at Sioux Falls on February 5-6; vs. Southwest Minnesota State on February 12-13 and at Augustana on February 19-20.