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October 22, 2008

2008-09 Season - Augustana women's basketball team excited to begin 2008-09 campaign

 

ROCK ISLAND, Ill.Third year head coach Bobbi Endress is looking forward to the 2008-09 season where she feels that the Vikings can “finish above .500 and make the conference tournament,” even though the team was seventh in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin at 3-11 and finished 5-20 overall just one year ago.  “Practice has been going well and the team is very motivated and excited to get the season started,” she said.

 

Endress has several reasons to be optimistic, including a large incoming class that should make an impact right away.  “The class if full of true basketball players,” she said.  “Each has a passion and dedication that is necessary for the continued growth of our program.”  The Vikings have 14 new players out of the 21 people on the roster so Augustana will certainly have a different look on the court this season.  “We have a young team with only one senior and one junior so our sophomore class will be relied upon to lead and help point us in the right direction.” 

 

Endress added that she is very happy to be working with new assistant coach Mark Beinborn.  Beinborn served as an assistant under Endress for two years at Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin.  “He brings a lot of excitement to the program,” said Endress.

 

The team also returns five letterwinners from last season, including senior point guard Sarah Rachwalski (Amos Alonzo Stagg HS, Palos Hills, Ill.).  “She will be our starting point guard this season,” said Endress.  “Sarah provides us with a lot of experience and she is our floor leader.”  Rachwalski started 19 of 25 contests and scored 6.3 points per game as a junior.  She was second on the team with 49 assists and also second in minutes played, averaging 28.5 per contest.  Rachwalski was third on the Vikings in overall field goal percentage, making 41.9 percent (57-136) of her shots from the floor.  She grabbed 94 rebounds and collected 34 steals. 

 

Joining her as returning letterwinners will be junior Kristen Fox (Ottawa HS, Ottawa, Ill.), and sophomores Jeanelle Strohmaier (Genoa-Kingston HS, Genoa, Ill.), Alyssa Neitzel (Providence Catholic HS, Shorewood, Ill.), and Lisa Smith (Lemont HS, Lemont, Ill.).  Fox missed much of last season due to injury, but was a valuable player on the 2006-07 squad where she played in all 25 contests and made four starts.  Strohmaier performed well in her first season at Augustana, earning playing time in all 25 games and making a pair of starts.  She averaged 4.1 points per game, snared 74 rebounds, and shot 42.9 percent (42-98) from the field.  Neitzel appeared in all 25 games as a reserve, averaging 12.0 minutes per contest.  She made 31.0 percent (18-58) of her shots from beyond the arc and had a scoring average of 2.6 points.  Smith also played in all 25 games and made two starts for Augustana.  She had 19 rebounds, 16 assists, and scored 12 points.

 

With Rachwalski slated to be the starting point guard, Endress expects healthy competition for the two and three spots on the floor.  Fox, sophomore transfer Gabi Hungerford (Wild Rose HS, Waupaca, Wis.), and freshman Lani Kasten (Forreston HS, German Valley, Ill.) will all be in the running for a starting spot, while Neitzel should continue to play a strong role as a “good shooter off the bench,” said Endress.  Strohmaier is the early favorite to hold down the center spot with freshmen Natalie Runge (St. Dominic HS, O’Fallon, Mo.), Kristina Howard (Cherokee Trail HS, Aurora, Colo.), and Jessica Scott (Morrison HS, Morrison, Ill.) all battling for the other starting post position.  Freshman Brianna Skeens (Vernon Hills HS, Vernon Hills, Ill.) “will help off the bench,” said Endress.

 

Augustana will once again battle a tough schedule both in the CCIW and against non-conference foes.  “There is good balance in our conference and we are looking to close the gap on the top teams in the league this season,” said Endress.  Augustana will also face quality opponents from the Iowa Conference in Coe and Loras, host a strong DePauw squad, and play a big rivalry game with St. Ambrose.  “Overall, it is a challenging non-conference schedule, but it will help get us ready for the conference season,” she said.  Endress is also excited about the team’s trip to Texas for the South Padre Island Shootout for a pair of games on December 20-21.  “It is a chance to get to a warm weather tournament and will be a good time for us to focus on basketball and make adjustments going into conference play,” said Endress.

 

“We’re in a good place right now with a lot of new faces,” said Endress.  “We have the opportunity to mold this group and teach them the expectations of playing in this program.  This team will grow up together and be able to teach our newcomers in upcoming seasons.  We are excited for the season to start.”

 

Story written by Assistant Sports Information Director Adam Strand