Team looks to have another strong season

In March, after the women’s basketball team advanced to the second round of the NCAA Div. III Championships, losing to Simpson College, the team lost four seniors.

Later on in April, head coach Tonja Englund said she felt the junior class was ready to take over.

And so they have.

Englund said the team has 5 returning seniors, who have come from a successful season and they’ve learned what it takes to be champions of conference that took them to the NCAA Championships.

“The seniors want to leave a mark on the program,” Englund said. “The team has very solid returning seniors that have contributed in the past and the team will be defined by them.”

This year the team will be starting its season on Friday as they travel to Ripon for the Ripon College Tip Off Tourney. Englund said the team will be playing two very good teams. On Friday the Blugolds will face Ripon and on Saturday Concordia.

Sophomore Kari Kaeding said both teams will be good competition and will give the team a chance to see where it’s are.

As of now the team is ranked 22nd on the USA Today/ESPN Top 25 coaches’ poll. Englund said the team is honored by the early recognition, but the team is more concerned about team chemistry.

Senior Pam Kaye said the team hasn’t proven anything yet.

“We still want to come out strong,” Kaye said. “If we don’t do anything with (the ranking) it doesn’t mean anything.”

Senior Heidi Arciszewski, one of the team’s three captains, said she is proud of the ranking, but the team is just going to take one game at a time.

“Right now we are not worried about the ranking,” Arciszewski said. “We are more worried about where we are going to be at the end of the season.”

Last season the team finished with a 23-7 overall record. This year the team is practicing four hours each day, six days a week, Kaye said. She added the team is not working differently from the past season, but has been working a lot the first month, adding she hopes it pays off this weekend.

The only differences in this year’s team are two former players that became part of the staff. Becca Bestul, who played on the team that made it to the Final Four in the 2002 and 2003 Nationals, and Amanda Zenner, last year’s captain.

“We have a really good, solid staff,” Englund said. “Peg Johnson (staff assistant coach) is on her ninth year on staff, so we have a tremendous staff that has played for us or has worked for a long time with us.”

Kaye said this is the senior’s chance to bring a lot of experience to the floor and bring leadership to make sure they go out on a good note.

Kaeding said the team should have another good year, but will face a lot of talented teams because the team plays in such a tough conference.

One of those teams is UW-Whitewater, who share a last season’s co-championship with the Blugolds, at the WIAC Championship with a 14-2 record.

Kaye said Whitewater is a good team, and the Blugolds are also a good team, but anybody can beat anybody at conference.

“We need to play our best basketball,” Kaye said. “I can’t predict how we are going to do against Whitewater, but we want to win every game, and we have to bring our A game every night.”

Arciszewski echoed those thoughts and said Whitewater has a great program and are a very tough and physical team.

“We also have a lot of talent and weapons to beat them,” Arciszewski said. “I think we are all expecting a great year to have fun and hopefully finish on top.”