Having lost three starters from last year’s NCAA tournament squad, the UW-River Falls women’s basketball team will need a total team effort to replicate that same success.
Two All-WIAC first team members from a year ago, forward Alise Holst and guard Tiffany Gregorich, graduated, leaving a lot of production to be filled by current members of the team.
Last year’s leading rebounder, Maranda Dohrn, also graduated. Besides the three starters, they also graduated Lauren Pellowski who came off the bench and played in all but one game last season.
Head coach Cindy Holbrook said that the hardest thing to replace will be those seniors’ experience.
“You can’t replicate experience. Obviously they were tremendous athletes; they knew how to respond in the close games. They understood the importance of practicing hard every day,” said Holbrook.
Holbrook did say that this year’s team practices hard and is quick to learn.
When it comes to picking up the on-court production, the Falcons will have to spread it around.
“Our two point guards will have to pick up the scoring, and everybody will have to pick up Maranda’s rebounding,” said Holbrook.
The two point guards who will be sharing minutes this season are sophomore Jesse Van Wyhe and freshman eligible Liz Anderson.
Senior forward Brittany Gregorich and senior guard Nikki Guhr are the team’s leading returning scorers.
Gregorich has started the past 62 games for the Falcons according to WIACsports.com.
This year’s team brought in a big freshman class and is improved in a couple of important areas, according to Holbrook.
“We’re a little deeper right now than we were a year ago and as athletic as we were a year ago,” said Holbrook.
She also said this team has the flexibility to match up well with different teams in their ability to go with a bigger or smaller lineup.
She said that she does prefer a consistent starting lineup, but that it might take a couple weeks to figure out who will be in that starting lineup.
The Falcons finished last year in a tie for third place in the WIAC, a conference that saw four teams make the NCAA tournament: UW-Stevens Point, UW-Whitewater, and UW-Eau Claire all made it in addition to the Falcons.
Holbrook said that getting four teams from the conference into the tournament was pretty exciting.
“You always hope for two or three. Four was just amazing. It’s not often that four teams have 20 plus wins all in the same year; they all deserved it,” said Holbrook.
This year’s Falcons were picked to finish fourth in the WIAC by the conference’s coaches and sports information directors.
Two of the teams picked ahead of UWRF, UWW and UWSP, are both ranked in the top 10 nationally in the preseason top 25.
Holbrook said she is not much of a preseason polls person.
“If we play how we’re capable of playing, we’ll finish where we’re supposed to finish,” said Holbrook. “Looking at our talent, we better be top half. It’s a tough conference. If we stay healthy, we should be top half.”
The Falcons begin their regular season at 5 p.m. on Nov. 16 against Carthage College in the St. Norbert Tournament.
They will open up home play on Nov. 20 against Martin Luther College. The team starts conference play Dec. 1 at home against UW-Platteville.