Carlsen hopeful for Huskies heading into second season

By Christopher Loggins

Women’s basketball failed to make it past the first round of the MAC Tournament, but first-year head coach Lisa Carlsen is confident that the program is headed in the right direction.

Carlsen was hired prior to the 2015-16 season following the unexpected departure of Kathi Bennett. The Huskies went just 11-19 in Carlsen’s first season.

Q: How would assess your first year here at NIU?

A: I think coming into it we kind of knew what our limitations were, so I don’t think when you’re [11-19] you’re necessarily satisfied. I knew that we would be strapped with some things. We got better from start to finish, which is important. We got an opportunity to play some young kids, that’s obviously really important moving forward as the program continues to grow. Overall, there [were] definitely some positives during the year.

Q: Do you think a lot of the team’s problems boiled over in the game against Western Michigan?

A: You can look at the last game and obviously, a loss is a loss and it was a pretty lopsided loss. Whether it was Western playing really well or us running out of gas a little bit cause we didn’t go very deep, it could be a lot of things. I think anytime you’re trying to restart or rebuild a program, you gotta look at the positives and take those and run with it.

Q: Do you think the team still had pretty high confidence even after the disappointing loss?

A: Well I think they’re looking forward to the direction we’re going. That’s part of the battle. We talked from the very beginning. I think this program needs to get to the point where the expectation is to continue to go deep in the conference tournament. And we didn’t do that this year but I don’t think they would tell you that the expectation is any different as we build to that point.

Q: You obviously come from a winning program at Lewis [University]. What’s it like now to be in a situation now where you have to build from the ground up?

A: I knew that coming into it — it’s not like it’s any surprise. They didn’t make a change because they were on top of the world. Yeah, it’s a lot more fun to win than lose, no doubt about it. Understanding what the expectation is and where they’re at and where we wanna go is all part of the job. It didn’t necessarily catch me by surprise.

Q: Has the team already started the recruiting process for next season?

A: Recruiting is never-ending. It’s something that goes on all the time, where you sign four kids early. So they’re already taken care of for next year’s class. But recruiting is something that we do all the time and you have to do the best you can at that so that you get the right kind of kids who fit your system.

Q: You had 11 losses this season of double figures. Is the concern more on offense or defense?

A: Well I think every game is different. We have to get better in every facet of the game. We gotta get better defensively. A lot of our problems this year were consistency. You got games where we played good defense and games where we wouldn’t play good defense. Games where we shot the ball well, couple games where we didn’t shoot the ball well. We were not a very consistent team.

Q: Ally [Lehman] really emerged as one of your best players and had a really great year. How do you view her progress going forward?

A: You’re right. She had a great year. She’s somebody who, as a team captain, an upperclassman, somebody who did bring a lot of game experience to the court. We’re gonna have to try to put pieces around her, with returning players [and] with incoming players as we try to take the next step essentially. She’s the type of player that fits well into what we’re trying to do systematically. She’s a tough kid, somebody we ask a lot of and can handle that. She’s a huge piece to the puzzle going forward.