Motivation will never be an issue for the St. Ambrose women’s basketball team this season.

For the last team left out of the 2013 NAIA Division II national tournament field, the emotions are still real.

“We talk about it almost every day, being so close and not wanting that to happen again,’’ said Lauren Cash, one of three returning starters from a 24-7 team. “We’re putting in the extra work and the extra time to make sure that we can make the most of this season.’’

The Queen Bees laid the groundwork for this season a year ago, picking up the pace on offense. With greater depth and athleticism on this year’s roster, coach Krista Van Hauen has no intention of slowing things down now.

“If anything, we’ve added to what we’re trying to do defensively and I think this is a game that is well-suited to our personnel,’’ Van Hauen said. “We’re going to get up and down the floor and it’s a tempo that we can be successful with and I think it will continue to work for us.’’

Cash, a 5-foot-7 guard from Pekin, Ill., averaged a team-leading 15.5 points per game last season and she will be complemented on the perimeter by junior Shelby Steger and sophomore Sydney Greiner.

Senior Nora Masterson will open the year at the point, with starter Ashley Dexter expected to return to that role once the women’s soccer season is over. Freshman Brette Logic, the younger sister of Iowa point guard Samantha Logic, also will factor into things at the point.

In the frontcourt, the Queen Bees return starter Katie Jensen at a forward spot and have experience in sophomore Devan Griffin. The pair combined to average 18.3 points per game last season.

Van Hauen also likes what she has seen inside from sophomores Rachel Hinebaugh and Lauren Brummel and junior college transfer Annaka Olson.

“We feel like we have four or five players who can give us good play in the post and the depth we have there is going to be a good thing for our team,’’ Van Hauen said.

“We have everything we need to compete and to compete at a high level. This team remembers what it felt like at the end of last season and they’ve come back hungry.’’

A schedule that includes more top-level competition from other NAIA regions is designed to prepare St. Ambrose not only for a tight Midwest Collegiate Conference race but to be able compete at the national level.

“We’re doing what we can to be prepared to take that next step,’’ Cash said. “But that starts with what we focus on from day to day. If we do that, everything will work out.’’