St. Ambrose University women's basketball coach Krista Van Hauen isn't worried about having to follow up a successful debut season in which the Queen Bees won Midwest Collegiate Conference regular-season and tournament titles in advancing to the NAIA National Tournament.|
"To defend our conference title is the most important (goal) right now,'' she said. "Obviously, if you win the conference tournament you're automatically in the national tournament. ... It's all in the back of our minds that we want to go one step farther than we did at the national tournament and make it to at least the Elite 8. You have to get over that hump in the Sweet 16 and then you never know what can happen out there.''
Those are pretty lofty expectations for a club that not only graduated four-year starter and all-around weapon in NAIA All-American Ali Dolphin, but will also be without starting point guard and defensive spark Ashley Dexter. The former North Scott prep tore her ACL early in the soccer season this fall and will take a redshirt season to rehab.
But don't feel sorry for the Queen Bees, who have already been tabbed the MCC favorites by league coaches and ranked No. 10 nationally among NAIA Div. II schools. They return three standout local seniors in Mollie Yeargle, Michelle Charvat and Annie Smith. Davenport West product Sam Saladino returns along with two improved letterwinners in Nora Masterson and Jane Schiffler, who saw very limited action last season.
Oh, and don't forget about two standout sophomore transfers in Lauren Cash and Carly Norton who will be major contributors.
And there's also a freshman class of 12 that includes Kewanee Wethersfield prep Shelby Steger that has looked good already and will be counted on for a lot of varsity minutes.
"Our long-term expectations are to make a run at nationals again,'' said Smith, noting things are much smoother this year in camp than last year.
Even with the six varsity returners, there will be a lot of minutes needed to be filled by newcomers – including the untested freshmen as the Queen Bees look to play an up-tempo game.
"There's a lot of them and they are fighting for positions and playing time,'' said Smith of the young newcomers. "There's only six returners, so we definitely need some of them to step up. They are definitely going to get to play and get some minutes. They are catching on quick and doing a good job so far.''
And they will get thrown into the fire quickly as the Queen Bees open at home on Tuesday before an exhibition game at Indiana University in Bloomington.
"It's still a scary process to get rotations and see who can do what,'' said Van Hauen. "It's still a learning process, but we'll get there.''
Still, those freshmen are going to be valuable for the Queen Bees and it appears as if they will be ready for the call.
What Van Hauen likes about this club, she said, is its versatility. She said with only one true post player – freshman Carter Wear (6-footer who prepped at Carthage-Illini-West) – this team will have a lot of interchangeable parts.
She also likes the fact that this team is shaping up to have much more offensive punch than last year's club that averaged 67.4 points per game, but struggled through some major droughts.
"We have a lot of scorers,'' said Van Hauen with a smile. "We're really deep; it's definitely a different looks this year because we have more offensive threats and more consistent shooters. Anyone can score. ... Really, 1-5 can shoot the 3. It's going to be a fun look.''
2011-12 SAU Queen Bees
- Coaches: Krista Van Hauen begins her second season leading the Queen Bees (29-5, MCC regular-season and tournament titles). she is assisted by Samantha Harrington.
- Returning lettermen: Michelle Charvat (6-0, Sr., F, Alleman HS), Annie Smith (6-2, Sr., F, Davenport Assumption HS/SW Minn. State), Mollie Yeargle (5-6, Sr., G, Alleman HS/Black Hawk); Samantha Saladino (6-0, Jr., F, Davenport West HS); Nora Masterson (5-3, Soph., G, Nazareth Academy), Jane Schiffler (5-10, Soph., G, Nazareth Academy). x-Ashley Dexter (5-4, Jr., G, North Scott HS -- will be taking a redshirt season because of an injury).
- Promising newcomers: Lauren Cash (5-7, Soph., G, Pekin HS/St. Joseph's College), Carly Norton (5-6, Soph., G, Bloomington Central Catholic/Parkland CC); Katelyn DeWulf (4-6, Fr., G, Tipton, Iowa, HS), Katie Jensen (5-11, Fr., G/F, Lena-Winslow HS), Lindsay Stopa (5-11, Fr., G/F, Bloomington Central Catholic HS), Shelby Steger (5-5, Fr., G, Kewanee Wethersfield HS), Carter Wear (6-0, Fr., C, Carthage-Illini West HS).
- Schedule: NOVEMBER: 1 Trinity Christian, 7 p.m., 3 at Indiana University (exhibition), 5 p.m., 12 Morningside, 2 p.m., 19 at Olivet Nazarene, 3 p.m., 22 Lindenwood-Belleville, 3 p.m., 27 Roosevelt University, 2 p.m. DECEMBER: 3 *Ashford, 1 p.m., 7 *AIB, 5:30 p.m., 10 at *William Penn, 1 p.m., 19-20 at Hoop N Surf tourney, Honolulu (19 vs. Hawaii Pacific, 5 p.m., 20 vs. Saint Xavier, 7 p.m.), 27-29 at Saint Xavier Tournament (27 vs. Calumet College-St. Joseph, 3 p.m.; 28 vs. St. Francis or Davenport, 3 or 5 p.m.; 29 vs. TBA). JANUARY: 4 at *Clarke, 5:30 p.m., 7 at *Grand View, 1 p.m., 11 *Mount Mercy, 5:30 p.m., 14 *Waldorf, 1 p.m., 18 at *Viterbo, 5:30 p.m., 21 *Iowa Wesleyan, 1 p.m., 23 at *Ashford, 5:30 p.m., 26 *William Penn, 5:30 p.m., 28 at *AIB, 1 p.m. FEBRUARY: 1 *Clarke, 5:30 p.m., 4 *Grand View, 1 p.m., 8 at *Mount Mercy, 5:30 p.m., 11 at *Waldorf, 1 p.m., 15 *Viterbo, 5:30 p.m., 18 at *Iowa Wesleyan, 1 p.m., 23-27 MCC Tournament, TBA.
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