As winter fast approaches, the next series sports for Dickinson State prepare for action, with the women's basketball time finally getting the chance to step out onto the court this week.
The Blue Hawks are gearing up for an exciting season that should show fruitful with a large returning group of upperclassmen, alongside eager transfers and freshmen.
Head coach Eric Nelson is in his third season with the Blue Hawks and is confident in the leadership from his seniors.
“With the Covid year last year, we had four seniors that opted to come back for kind of their fifth year, which was really nice because they have been with me for three years and they understand what practices are supposed to look like,'' Nelson said. “They have done a really good job of helping the freshmen out, helping some of our transfer out, getting them caught up to speed with some of the offense and defense and leading the way.”
Nelson and his assistant coach Haley Froelich have complimented one another well, having a strong professional bond that began at Presentation College. It was his previous head coaching position before DSU and where Froelich started her collegiate career, achieving two NAIA All-American honors.
“She played for me back when I was at Presentation,” Nelson said. “Having one of the best players that played for you, wanting to coach under you is kind of a cool deal. I didn't have to tell her what to do … she knew what I needed and what I wanted so that was a seamless change and it's been a great thing for both of us.”
Nelson believes that one of their strengths as a team is their large returning group of upperclassmen, one of which is first team All-Conference senior forward Courtney Olson. Olson averaged 17.5 PPG and 4.9 RPG.
“I like that we are all close and that everybody is willing to help you out,” Olson said. ”It's going to come in big because teams that work together usually end up going far in the tournament. With our team chemistry, we should go pretty far in this division.”
The Blue Hawks is also welcoming a few transfer students that Nelson believes will be great assets to their season. Kailyn Groves, who played at Northwestern College in Iowa and Lauren Baumberger, coming from Black Hill State, will be important pieces for Nelson this season.
“Those are two impactful transfers that will add more depth and talent to our team,” Nelson said. “It's always nice to bring in transfers because they've been there before, they have played college basketball and they understand what it takes.”
They also have a larger number of underclassmen that will have a chance to learn from their seniors and start earning a place on the team.
“We have had a couple of injuries already this year, so I told some of those freshmen and sophomores, ‘ Hey, it's your time to step up.’ And hopefully they will take that as a challenge,” Nelson said. “There are times we have to do more film and we try to do more teaching early in the season to get them up to speed, but they have done a really good job of paying attention. They work really hard, they are in the gym all the time so that makes that a lot easier.”
Their season will start with a series of non-conference games, first of which will be this Thursday at Scott Gymnasium against the University of Jamestown. After losing to the Jimmies 87-64 in last season’s opener, Nelson is excited to see how far his team has come and which younger players will push to stand out.