Women’s basketball hopes for sustained success


Northern Star File Photo

Lisa Carlsen, women’s basketball Head Coach, speaks about the team at Media Day Nov. 2, 2017.

By Eddie Garcia

DeKALB — Women’s basketball begins its season Saturday after coming off of one of the most successful seasons the program has seen in over 20 years.

Head Coach Lisa Carlsen enters her third season with the Huskies, as her team finished with a 21-12 overall record and a trip to the Mid-American Conference Championship last season. It was only the fifth time in school history that the Huskies accomplished a 20-win season and the team’s first time since 1993-94.

However, it will not be the same MAC Championship team returning in 2017-18, as the Huskies lost two of their starters and key components on offense with guard Ally Lehman and forward Cassidy Glenn now graduated.

Both Glenn and Lehman played in all 33 games last season, as they contributed in large part on offense with each of them averaging double figures in scoring.

Junior guard Courtney Woods said the team has transitioned their style of play into a more team oriented game this season. Woods said everyone on the team is going to have to contribute instead of relying on one or two people.

“It will be hard because a lot of my scoring personally came off of Ally and so did a lot of our team scoring,” Woods said. “All of our coaches have been working with us on how to get open ourselves without having to rely on Ally’s penetration and all of that, so it has definitely been an adjustment.”

NIU led the MAC with 85.1 points per game and ranked fifth in the country in scoring last year. The team returns with three starters, senior forward Kelly Smith, junior guard Mikayla Voigt, and Woods, all of whom averaged double digit scoring in 2016-17.

The Huskies high powered offense fell short last season because of their lack of depth, as Carlsen admits they wore down later in the season.

This year, however, Carlsen said her goal is to have more than a seven person rotation and believes it can happen if the team is able to stay healthy.

“We talked about it a lot in the offseason,” Carlsen said. “I felt like we wore down a little bit at the end of the year. A lot of it was because we asked these kids to play a lot of minutes. It is something that we are going to be aware of early in hopes of making a difference later on in the season.”

The Huskies added two freshman guards in Gabby Nikitinaite and Erin Hodges, along with freshman forward Riley Blackwell.

All three freshmen have the ability to score, which may help with the depth and the absence of Lehman and Glenn.

“I think that this year we have a lot more depth,” Voigt said. “I think that is really going to allow us to be fresh and continue our fast pace offense late into March when we are trying to make those postseason runs.”

Following up a historic season is never easy, but the Huskies don’t seemed worried. Instead, they look to use last year’s postseason run as encouragement to get back to the MAC Championship, but this time with a different end result.

“Remembering what it felt like to be so close to reaching and accomplishing our goals and then not getting it just makes us hungrier to get back there and have a different result,” Voigt said. “Our goal is always going to be get to Cleveland, win the MAC Championship and make the NCAA tournament.”

The team will begin its season with an exhibition game 1 p.m. Saturday against Benedictine University at the Convocation Center.