Women’s hoops poised for big run next season

By Frank Gogola

Women’s basketball crossed a number of items off its to-do list this season, but it will look to take another, possibly even bigger, step toward bringing a MAC title to DeKalb next season.

The Huskies (11-19, 7-13 MAC) upped their overall and conference win totals from last season. They won four more games in the 2013-14 season (11) than they did in 2012-13 (seven), and they won five more conference games this season (seven) than they did last season (two).

The Huskies also accomplished their goal of making it to Cleveland, although they would have liked to stay there longer than one game. They lost in the second round of the MAC Tourney to Ball State, 61-47, Wednesday.

The Huskies have the right pieces in place to make a serious postseason run next season, returning all five starters, four of whom are seniors, and their top seven scorers.

They return all but two players: seniors Alicia Johnson and Ashley Sneed, who will be lost to graduation. While Johnson and Sneed combined to average only 4.8 points per game, NIU loses leadership with the departure of both.

The Huskies return senior guards Danny Pulliam and Amanda Corral, who was named to the All-MAC Third Team, and senior forwards Jenna Thorp, Natecia Augusta and Alex Dumoulin, who can contribute in the leadership department.

They will also have the services of guard Lacia Gorman, who sat out the 2012-13 season due to NCAA transfer regulations and the 2013-14 season after suffering an injury prior to the season, and forward Cassidy Glenn, who redshirted this year after transferring from Presbyterian College.

The key for the Huskies next season will be consistency. They struggled with consistency not only in winning but also in keeping up a reliable offensive and defensive presence throughout an entire game.

They only won multiple games in a row twice during the regular season — two two-game winning streaks — and suffered four losing streaks on the year: three games, two games, six games and two games. They did show some resiliency, posting a 9-9 record in games following a loss.

The Huskies were in a number of games, but they would lose their edge in the closing minutes and come up short, whether it was because of turnovers, bad shot selection or simply losing focus. They went 6-8 in games decided by single digits and 4-5 in games decided by five or fewer points.

With head coach Kathi Bennett’s first recruiting class reaching its senior campaign next season, the Huskies have the potential to hoist a MAC title, but as with all of Bennett’s teams, everything starts with defense.