A new breed of Huskies ready to bark to victory

By Todd McMahon

Twas the season of the pup. One year later, those pups have grown up and are ready to start barking at and biting anyone that steps in their path.

As the NIU women’s basketball motto implies, this team is definitely “a breed apart” from the group that finished 18-14 a year ago—capped by a trip to the NCAA Tournament’s second round.

“Last year, when we won that first round (game) against Louisiana Tech, it felt really good,” head coach Jane Albright-Dieterle said. “Then it felt just as bad to go down to Purdue (in Round 2) and get knocked out very soundly.”

“I think our players really took that to heart and have worked very, very hard. You can’t imagine how hard these kids have worked.”

With five seniors leading the Huskie sled this year, it’s no wonder why this year’s breed has such a strong dedication to work hard and a desire to succeed.

“The best way to lead is by example,” said Albright-Dieterle of the seniors. “They really have a clear picture of what we want to do here in our system … it’s a group of five that are capable of leading.”

The Huskies’ charge centers around returning leading scorer and All-America candidate Cindy Conner. The 6-1 guard/forward enters this season with 1,015 total points in just two years of action.

Also making up the NIU senior class is Dianna Wingis (6.5 rpg), Debbie Teske (5.8 ppg), Tiana Burkholder (2.1 rpg) and Julie Gainer (38 assists).

Just as Albright-Dieterle is loaded with talent at the senior spectrum, she is not missing a beat with the juniors. First and foremost is E.C. Hill, who is rated as one of the top shooting guards in the country.

Hill lived up to most of the expectations in her first collegiate action last season by averaging 14.5 points a game, 5.1 rebounds and dishing out 113 assists to garner North Star Conference Newcomer of the Year honors.

“She’s been a very big leader,” Albright-Dieterle said. “She’s running the show, and she’s doing it in a very effective way.”

The juniors also will be led by an “improved” Soyini Chism and junior college transfer Caryn Alexander (19.5 ppg and 14.3 rpg at Lake County). Missing, however, will be leading rebounder Angela Lockett, who will undergo surgery on her knee this Thursday.

The underclassmen group features sophomores Leslie Pottinger (2.8 ppg) and Jenny Sullivan and three freshmen, who all drew rave reviews during their high school careers.

5-7 guard Chelsea Schwankl led Burnsville, Minn., to two straight state titles.

Forward Charmonique Stallworth averaged 28.2 points a game and 10.8 rebounds per contest at South Bend’s (Ind.) Washington High School.

The last recruit Albright-Dieterle added to her kennel was Maine West’s Dana Lau. The 6-1 forward averaged 10.1 points per game and pulled down seven boards.