Time has tested the eight seniors who take the court this season for the Augustana women’s basketball program.
Many saw time early in their career as part of a young program. Others dealt and adjusted to a myriad of injuries that sidelined two starters a year ago and led to a 7-18 season.
“We’ve been through a lot, but I think that is only going to help us this season,” said point guard Whitney Miller, a senior who prepped at Clinton. “We’re ready to keep pushing forward. We have a lot of experience and leadership.”
Sixth-year coach Bobbi Endress believes those elements and a new offensive approach will help the Vikings compete.
Looking to maximize the talent on the roster, Augustana will switch to a four-out, one-in look offensively while continuing to force the tempo this season.
“The idea is to try to get more people involved in our offense,” Endress said. “We’re looking for a more of a balanced effort in terms of who is putting up shots.”
Miller, who averaged 3.4 assists last season, will run the Vikings’ floor game.
“She came in as a transfer last season and played well, but she looks even more comfortable now at the point,” Endress said. “She gives us a solid player to build around.”
The Vikings return starters Elizabeth Phillips, Natalie Runge and Brianna Skeens, but all eight seniors on the roster have started at least one game in their careers.
Endress sees that experience as critical to Augustana’s hopes of building on last season’s late-season surge which saw her team win three of its last five road games in the College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin.
“This group has made a lot of strides,” she said. “Defensively, we’ve built on what we were able to do late last season and the effort they are bringing every day in practice has been good. They want to become a good team and I think they have a chance to start to climb the ladder in the CCIW.”
Runge, a 5-foot-10 forward, is the Vikings’ returning scoring and rebounding leader. She averaged 11 points and 6.2 rebounds per game a year ago before suffering a season-ending knee injury in her 15th start of the year.
“The knee feels good and it’s good to be back on the court,’’ Runge said. “Our senior class has played together for a long time and the chemistry that I see on this team is going to help us compete. We’re all on the same page. The offense we’re running is a good fit and I think we’re ready to make some strides.’’
Endress counts on that.
“If we can stay healthy, which is something we have struggled with the past couple of seasons, I feel like we can do some good things,’’ she said. “We’re a much more aggressive defensive team, a better defensive team, and that along with what I see happening on offense will only help us.’’
Augie at a glance
2010-11 record: 7-18, 3-11 CCIW (tied for seventh)
Coach: Bobbi Endress (62-119 overall, 26-99 entering sixth season at Augustana)
Returning starters: G Whitney Miller, 5-6, sr., 6.4 ppg, 4.1 rpg; G/F Elizabeth Phillips, 5-10, sr., 4.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg; F Natalie Runge, 5-10, sr., 11.0 ppg, 6.2 rpg; F Brianna Skeens, 5-10, sr., 2.2 ppg, 3.0 rpg
Returning reserves: F Jessica Baids, 5-9, soph., 4.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg; G Molly Etheridge, 5-5, soph., 8.7 ppg, 2.9 rpg; F Kristina Howard, 5-10, sr., 1.0 ppg, 2.3 rpg; G Dawn Kernich, 5-7, sr., 1.6 ppg, 2.3 rpg; G Gianna Pecora, 5-5, jr., 2.7 ppg, 1.1 rpg; F Chaney Tambling, 5-8, soph., 1.5 ppg, 1.8 rpg; G Allie Scaggs, 5-9, sr., 0.6 ppg, 0.9 rpg
Newcomers: F Devon Di Iorio, 6-1, jr.; G Lauren Hoffman, 5-9, jr.; G Amy Hicks, 5-7, soph.; F Kayla Boers, 5-11, fr.; F Jenna Dalton, 6-0, fr.; G Sam Johannsen, 5-7, fr.; G Valerie VanRoeyen, 5-7, fr.; F Shelby Whigham, 5-11, fr.