Rising to new heights: Blue Hawks look for better results with balanced roster
For the Dickinson State women's basketball team, the 2017-18 season was a transition year in every way: A new coach and no returning players. This season, Liz Lewis is back at the helm and following a 5-24 campaign, in which the Blue Hawks went 0...
For the Dickinson State women's basketball team, the 2017-18 season was a transition year in every way: A new coach and no returning players.
This season, Liz Lewis is back at the helm and following a 5-24 campaign, in which the Blue Hawks went 0-16 against conference opponents, five players kept the faith and returned.
With the veterans and a new pack of recruits, the team hopes to make a better impression this winter and isn't holding back with any goals.
"Winning the conference and making it to the tournament, those are definitely goals this year," senior guard Lacey Waid said. "I just want to be successful and want everyone to be successful and have a good year."
The Blue Hawks have one thing they didn't have last year: height. Returning senior forward Rojin Karahan was the tallest player on the roster last year at 5-foot-11, but Lewis added three freshmen listed at six foot or taller, opening up offensive and defensive opportunities.
"Our offense is a little bit different than last year, hopefully having more of an inside presence this year with our height," Lewis said. "We also got some shooters to help stretch the defense. The other night against Yellowstone Christian, we did hit shots but our inside game wasn't quite where I wanted it to be."
Freshmen forwards Kyley Verploegen and Danielle Wallace hail from Havre High School in Mont., where they won the state championship, while Caleigh McClenahan came to Dickinson State from Colfax, Calif. Until junior college transfer Sophie Agorakis recovers from an injury and joins the team in December, all three first-years are going to be flung straight into the fire of college basketball.
"I think all three of the 'taller' girls, we're all getting there because we're not used to this level of play," McClenahan said. "I think it's working out well, even though we have a little bit more to go. I think we're figuring out how to work well with everyone and it's going to be good."
Rounding out the recruits is junior guard Ashlie Larson from Casper College, senior point guard Anna Jofresa from Spring Hill College, freshman guard Brook Janz out of Sturgis, S.D., and junior guard Celeste Pantoja, a transfer from Treasure Valley Community College.
After a year on the court together, Lewis expects big things from her returners, who she described as a 'solid core.'
In addition to Karahan and Waid, there are also senior guards Riley Helmick and Chelsey Borden returning, as well as sophomore guard and Natalee Hafer.
Although she only played half the season, Borden led the team with 11.1 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Helmick appeared in all 28 games, posting nine points per game and shooting 34 percent from the 3-point arc.
On Tuesday, in the first game of the year against Yellowstone Christian College, Dickinson State came out on top 84-40, led by 13-point performances by Borden and Larson.
"We'll execute a lot more this year," Waid said. "We're definitely going to be scoring a lot more this year. It's a great feeling this year. ... Our first game was very fun. It was kind of thrown together, all of us playing and having fun. What we need to work on is playing more together and being on the same page."
Last season, the Blue Hawks scored 52 points per game, while allowing 72. This year, the team is hoping to implement what they're calling 'house' defense, which they hope will confuse some opponents.
"Defensively, there's actually a different level of toughness in the kids we have," Lewis said. "They're not afraid to get on the floor, not afraid to take charges. They get out and pressure, talk and communicate. ... We're going to be able to put in some different defenses and mix it up instead of running the same thing."