NIU—cream of the crop


As pre-season play begins as early as Nov. 16 for some teams in this year’s Mid-Continent Conference schedule, NIU and University of Wisconsin-Green Bay rank as the top two teams in this year’s pre-season coach’s poll.

Despite the absence of NIU head coach Jane Albright-Dieterle’s vote the Huskies remain atop this year’s poll with 79 points followed by UWGB with 72.

Led by All-American candidate E.C. Hill, the Huskies will be without nearly 50 percent of last year’s scoring as a result of graduation. Hill will return just 21 points shy of the 1,000 point barrier to lend a hand in this year’s battle for a second straight Mid-Con title. In addition to the Kodak District IV All-America guard will be junior forward/center Angela Lockett and junior guard Leslie Pottinger.

Coming on strong will be UWGB (19-10, 14-2 last year) with first team All-Conference selection 6-4 senior center Kim Wood. With a supporting class as good as any in conference, UWGB looks to bring this year’s race to the wire with five returnees who all have seen considerable playing time.

A distant third in pre-season voting, Valparaiso University will attempt to improve on last year’s fourth place finish (16-11, 11-5) with this year’s only returning senior Shari Toelke. A 5-8 guard, Toelke average 12.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game last year. With sophomore forward and member of last year’s Mid Con All-Newcomer Team, Carrie Forsman, the Lady Crusaders hope to make this year’s race closer than most expect it to be.

Also looking to improve will be last year’s fifth place UIC Flames (15-13, 8-8) with the help of junior guard Penny Armstrong, who came on strong in the Flame’s final 12 games, averaging 14 ppg and 4.5 rpg, will attempt to carry over last year’s success to a team which seems to be in a period of transition. With a young and inexperienced forefront, this year’s Flames are counting on sophomore Heather McKenna who averaged 5.2 ppg and 5.6 rpg to bring their game to new heights this year.

Five new recruits will join this year’s six returning letter winners at Youngstown State University in head coach Ed DeGregorio’s goal of a prestigious Top 20 ranking and an NCAA bid. Team co-captains Senior guard Cathy Hartman and junior forward Kristi Echelberry, 9.6 ppg and 12.6 ppg, respectively, will lead this year’s squad in hopes of accomplishing DeGregorio’s pre-season goals.

In University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s inaugural season in the Mid-Con Conference, head coach M.A. Kelling will bring plenty of action to the floor with a solid foundation of three returning letter-winning seniors, center Eica Young, guard Pam Bartnik, and guard Carrie Vorpahl. Bartnik, a fifth year senior, will return this year to run the offense, which averaged 65.7 ppg, as she has for 81 of UWM’s last 82 games.

For the Cleveland State University Vikings, a Mid-Con title in 1994 looks to be out of reach, but with senior forward Heidi Marshall and 5-7 junior guard Lori Johnson, this team cannot be so easily discarded. Marshall, who personifies head coach Lorretta Hummeldorf’s “run and stun” style of offense, averaged 7.1 ppg and 4.7 rpg. Johnson, who currently ranks fourth on CSU’s all time assist list will remain as this year’s backcourt leader. Averaging 9.2 ppg and 5.1 apg she will attempt to improve on last year’s 7-10 overall record, 6-10 in conference.

Hoping to be able to better contend with nine returning letter winners, Wright State University head coach Terry Hall hopes to make this a fourth straight season with an increase in the win column. Leading this year’s group of returnees will be Lori Collins who not only led the team in scoring (9.2 ppg) but also in rebounding (7.5 rpg). In addition will be junior guard Jennifer Brigner, fifth last year in the Mid-Con in three-point field goal percentage (.350). Brigner also holds the season (41) and career (81) three point field goal records at WSU.

Hoping to see dividends pay off as soon as this year, Western Illinois head coach Regina Miller will see all five starters return from last season. Junior Vicki Adelman (15 ppg) will return to lead this year’s offense from point guard. Lori Haskett, a 5-11 sophomore forward, became one of the Westerwinds most consistent players when she averaged 14.7 ppg.

With Eastern Illinois University first year head coach John Klein at the helm and several new players competing for starting positions this season seems to best be utilized as a rebuilding season for the Lady Panthers. Junior point guard Nicky Polka will head this group as one of three starting returners. Second on the team last year in scoring (7.4 ppg), Polka will be teamed with a pair of sophomore guards who saw considerable playing time last year, Kenya Green (4.7 ppg) and Tourrie Frazier (3.0 ppg).