One season ago, six Wildcat seniors graduated from NMU with a championship under their belts and marks cemented in the program’s all-time scoring sheet.
It will be a new era for the NMU women’s basketball team this season when the Wildcats hit the floor to open their season against the University of Wisconsin-Superior on Saturday, Nov. 7.
The ’Cats now have eight freshmen lacing up on their 13-player roster that have not played in a regular season college basketball game.
NMU head coach Troy Mattson said his team is building towards a successful future.
“We need to keep progressing,” Mattson said. “We have so much to learn and so many new faces, but our athleticism is really good. We have enough stability to keep us in a good position in most games, and our freshmen need to continue to progressing as well as they have.”
The Wildcats lost six seniors to graduation last season who left their marks on the program. Only two seasons removed from their GLIAC championship, guards Alyssa Colla and Lauren Gruber left the program amongst the highest scorers in the women’s basketball team’s history.
Forward Nea Makela has also left the team before what would have been her senior season.
Freshmen guards Chloe Tompkins, Tess Weatherly and Darby Youngstrom were listed as redshirts last season behind their senior core.
“Sitting out the year helped them tremendously,” Mattson said. “They probably weren’t going to see much action last year, and this year they we’re going to see a lot of playing time from them and even starting time.
[Youngstrom] and [Tompkins] have had really great preseasons and will probably start for us if they can stay healthy, while [Weatherly] has been a little sick and injured lately. The three learned so much last year without losing any time, and it has greatly benefited us as a program.”
Five more freshmen have been added to the NMU roster this offseason, with Houghton native Sydney Dillinger listed as a guard along with Bailey Denis from DePere, Wis. and Emily Shramek from Naperville, Ill.
Freshman center Taylor Hodell has joined NMU for her freshman season, along with guard and forward Haley Kershner.
Hodell is the team’s only listed center.
The veteran spots are now filled by senior forwards Alyson Matkovich and Kendall Martnent.
Martnent was a Division I transfer a year ago and earned the team’s Newcomer of the Year award, starting one game and averaging 3.5 overall rebounds per game.
Junior guard Bre Gaspervich was the leading scorer amongst players remaining on the Wildcat roster, and was the third highest scorer on the team last season. Her 8.8 points per game earned her 15 starts and play in all 27 games for the ’Cats. Gaspervich led the team shooting 51.7-percent from the field and 44.6-percent from beyond the arc.
Mattson said Gaspervich needs to be an offensive leader this season.
“Gaspervich has to take one more step up this year,” Mattson said. “We’re hoping she can be a 14 or 15 point scorer for us every night. She showed signs of capability reach 20 or more and being a really good scorer, but she’s going to have to take a big step. She’s done an incredible job so far, and we’re hoping she’ll be our top consistent player moving forward.”
Guard Anna Liewen is listed as a sophomore for 2015-16 after missing all of last year and the majority of the 2013-14 season with a dislocated kneecap and torn cartilage at sidelined her for two seasons. This will be Liewen’s fourth season with the team.
Despite injuries to numerous players last season, NMU finished with a 15-7 conference record and 17-10 overall, finishing fifth in the GLIAC before falling to Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich. during the opening round of their fourth straight GLIAC tournament appearance.
Junior guard Ashley Colla could find more playing time this season with the team’s departures, after scoring six points and grabbing 12 rebounds last season.
NMU will open their season against Wisconsin-Superior in an exhibition game at 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 7 at the PEIF practice gym.
The Wildcats will then travel to the GLVC/GLIAC Challenge tournament the following weekend in Quincy, Ill.
The next weekend will bring the ’Cats to Sault Ste. Marie Mich. for the Lake Superior State University tournament, than the women will finally get their home opener at the Berry Events Center at 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 3 against Walsh University.
Tompkins said her team is ready to impress GLIAC opponents.
“Some people might see us as underdogs starting the season, but that’s not the way we’re feeling as a team,” Tompkins said. “We’re excited to go out and show what we’ve learned here the past few years; show how much talent we have and what this team is really capable of.”