WIU Women’s Basketball 2016 Preview

Integral pieces to the record-setting team a year ago forward Sophie Reichelt and all-time leading three point shooter guard Michelle Maher graduated. Those seniors went through a lot to make history

“I feel like that simulated life,” head coach JD Gravina said. “People get into sports and think it’s going to be this great experience but sometimes it’s tough. Those girls really battled through it and I’m glad they saw some results.”

Going to the postseason and taking Summit League teams down to the wire has given the team confidence for 2016.

“We played very well together and the nothing to lose attitude worked for us,” Boyle said.

On offense the fast paced style that fans have become accustomed to will not change.

“We have a lot of speed on this team and our motion style offense gives us a lot of freedom,” junior guard Emily Clemens said. “We can play unselfish basketball.”

All eleven dressing players are expected to see significant playing time this year including five newcomers. Transfers Morgan Blumer from FGCU and Olivia Braun both sat out the required one year per NCAA rules last season.

womens-bball-celebration“I think sitting out actually helped me a lot,” Blumer said. “It made me get acclimated to Western’s offense and what they like to do. I cannot wait to play. It’s been a long year.”

Three freshmen come into Macomb ready to play right away. Local product Olivia Kauffmann from Jacksonville and is Jacksonville High School’s all-time leading scorer. Sam Pryor is the second all-time leading scorer at Burlington Central in the Chicagoland area and Andi Pierce from Enid, Oklahoma who is a fundamentally sound player.

“Like every freshmen class they have their good days and their bad days,” Gravina said. “It’s such a tough transition going to the division one level. I think those kids are bringing good maturity to it and they’re all three different which I like.”

Consistent defensive play was an issue last season with Gravina open to ideas to improve.  For another season, Western will rely on spacing due to the lack of a true post presence. More man to man defense and match-up zone will be brought back from a couple years ago.

The non-conference schedule is loaded with area schools such as SIUE, Chicago State, Illinois State and Bradley. It adds a meaning to games while taking it easy on the budget.  Trips to NCAA tournament qualifier Mizzou and Marquette highlight the marquee games this season.

Once again the conference is loaded with South Dakota State picked first and the Leathernecks slated to end up in sixth but the players say don’t count on that.

“I think we have a really exciting team and everyone is pumped,” Boyle said. “We all mesh really well together and will do some really great things.”

One more exhibition game is lined up for Wednesday night inside Western Hall at 7 p.m. against William Penn before the season officially begins on Friday, November 11 versus Monmouth.