Women’s basketball starts season with win

john.becker

The NMU women’s basketball team is looking to improve upon last year’s season record with the help of returning veteran players and a couple of new transfers.

The Wildcats (1-0 overall, 0-0 GLIAC) opened the season with a victory on the road, helping the team start off on the right foot.
Head coach Troy Mattson, in his fifth year coaching women’s basketball, said the bar will be set high for this team.

“We were 14-14 last season, we’ve made improvements every year since I’ve been here,” Mattson said. “I think we have a team in place that’s going to challenge for a conference championship.”

The ‘Cats must fill the shoes of Kelsey Deacon, who averaged just over 16 points per game, as well as Cassi Rushford, Cassie Hegbloom and Natalie Larocque.

Mattson said the team has acquired two transfers from NCAA Division I schools this season: Mariah Dunham from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Elicia Derusha, from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

“They both were Division I athletes, so they’re a little bit bigger, a little bit faster, they have a great understanding of how to play, and they’ve played at a higher level. Both of them are bringing a higher level of basketball to our team which is a big advantage for us,” Mattson said.

The passion these players bring to the court, Mattson said, will be beneficial to the program.

“Having them in practice increases our intensity, our basketball skills and makes us a better basketball team,” he said.

The ‘Cats will have good depth this season at the center position, with Dunham, Angie Leckson and Erin Powers all available.

“I feel real strong about that position. We got size, strength and speed and basketball ability at that position,” he said.

The team plays a three or four guard program, which Mattson said was because of the team’s dip in height after the three centers. Mattson said the strategy has been advantageous to the team in the past.

“It gives us people who know how to handle the ball, they all can shoot. They’re big enough guards that they can handle themselves against bigger players, and our team speed and toughness just goes way up,” he said.

One of the guards expected to make a difference this year is Christa Erickson. Erickson led the ‘Cats in their season-opening victory against Northland College, tallying 17 points and shooting a perfect six for six from the floor, including five for five from beyond the three-point line.
Erickson said the players have set high standards for themselves this year.

“Our goals are to play together as a team, to win our conference and go to the national tournament,” she said.

Erickson also said she wants to help younger players on the team develop their full potential.

“When younger players come in they have to realize what it takes to get somewhere or what they have to do, and hopefully I can set that example for them,” Erickson said.

Still, Mattson said the team does have some improvements to make, such as their problems with numbers of turnovers.

“I think we have great offensive players. We need to get shots. We can’t be giving the other team opportunities; that’s going to be a big focus for us,” Mattson said. “We turned the ball over way too much; we had 10 turnovers in the first half, we’re trying to strive for 10 turnovers in a game, and it got way worse in the second half.”

The Wildcats will travel to Duluth, Minn., to play a non-conference game against the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs (1-1 overall) on Nov. 24 at 7 p.m.

The ‘Cats will play their home opener on Dec. 3 against Northwood.