Women’s squad hoping to fly on eagle’s wings

By Rich Carlson

“Drive for Five”, eagle, “Next Level” and a race car. All have a specific significance to the upcoming NIU women’s basketball season.

The team kicked off its season last Thursday afternoon with lots of food and humor and an explanation of what the four above elements have to do with the season at the their annual media luncheon.

Head coach Jane Albright-Dieterle spoke about what to expect from this year’s team, introduced the players and revealed what this season’s mottos and symbols stand for.

Everybody in attendance received a card with the words “Next Level” and a picture of a huskie and an eagle.

“You get to the point where getting to the (NCAA) tournament is not what your program is about,” said Albright-Dieterle. “The next level of that is getting through it and doing better in that tournament.”

The Huskies made it through the Mid-Con tournament and into the NCAA tournament last season only to be knocked out in the first round by Georgetown in a heartbreaking 76-74 loss. This season Albright-Dieterle will have her team ready for the next level.

“We’re going to be studying the eagle,” she commented. They are very powerful and have a lot of speed. They are pretty much at a higher level than all the other birds.”

The comparisons are similar. The team has been working on speed in the off season and look to return just as powerful as they were last year when they finished 15-1 in conference and 24-6 overall. This year’s team has a lot of weapons which Albright-Dieterle compared to an eagle’s talons and they are going to be facing a lot of adversity.

The team posters were revealed at the luncheon and that is where the “Drive for Five” and the race car come in. The poster has the team pictured with a race car in the fieldhouse headlined with the phrase “Drive for Five” which stands for the fifth straight year reaching post-season play.

“If you’re gonna ride in a race, you’re gonna need a car, and that car is our team,” explained Albright Dieterle. “We have to get everybody in position where we can have a topnotch vehicle.”

This season’s race will not end at the Mid-Con tournament, which NIU will host this season March 10-12, but will continue on through the NCAA tournament.

“Last year when they told us we were through and our season was over, we were not finished playing,” she commented. “I think in our minds we still had something to give and particularly the young people that are in here.”

If the season started last Friday, Albright-Dieterle said the starting five would have been E.C. Hill, Angela Lockett, Leslie Pottinger, Charmonique Stallworth and Caryn Alexander. While Hill is the only returning starter, Albright-Dieterle is confident she has the talent and the depth to have a good year.

“It won’t be the same starting five every week because they have people pushing them at every single spot,” she said. “We will change our lineup dependent on needing a little more height or a little more quickness, we have a lot of weapons.”

The luncheon served its purpose of promoting the team. Albright-Dieterle emphasized that her Huskies expect to get to the next level and fly like eagles this season. They have the weapons and the power to finish out the race to the tournament and the team is ready to go.