BEMIDJI – Inconsistency and injuries plagued the Bemidji State women’s basketball team last season.
After forward Jessie Althoff and guard Erica Trabing went down with early-season injuries, the Beavers had trouble finding depth on the roster and struggled in a 9-18 season.
It’s one of the reasons NSIC coaches pegged BSU to finish 13th in the preseason poll; the Beavers were also picked to finished seventh out of eight teams in the NSIC Northern Division.
This year, though, things are looking up. With Althoff and Trabing both healthy and back in the mix and the return of seven players who saw game action last year, BSU head coach Mike Curfman is excited about improving this year.
“I think we’re going to be a much deeper team than we’ve been,” the eighth-year head coach said. “Part of it is getting back injured players, part of it is some of the newcomers we’ve added. I’m excited about this group. It’s just a matter of getting us all on the same page.”
The Beavers open their season today with a trip to Grand Forks, N.D., for a 7 p.m. exhibition game against North Dakota. They’ll return home for a pair of contests against Lakehead University of Ontario Friday and Saturday.
Despite having only two seniors on the squad – 5-foot-8 point guard Shannon Thompson and 6-2 center Emily Kaus – the Beavers only lost two players to graduation in Samantha Baldwin and Taylor Davis.
The fact that Althoff – a 6-1 forward – and Trabing – a 5-10 freshman who took a redshirt last season after her injury – return excites the Beavers. Especially the fact that having Althoff and Kaus together again in the post gives them a nice presence inside along with 6-2 junior Kate Warmack.
“I know Emily and Jessie haven’t played together since their freshman year, so I’m excited to play with them at the same time,” Thompson said. “And then having Erica back and Chelsea Carlson back will be awesome.”
Carlson, a 5-3 point guard, also missed a large chunk of last season after tearing her ACL.
“It was kind of a train of events,” Kaus said, referring to the unfortunate timing of some of the injuries last season. “But I think we are very deep this year. We have a lot of people competing for positions and it keeps practice interesting.”
Among those getting an audition for playing time this year are two transfers, Lanae Rash and Melissa Youngblut. Rash, a 5-8 junior guard from Milwaukee, played at Rainy River Community College last season, while Youngblut, a 6-1 sophomore, comes from Division-I Iowa State.
The Beavers also have a nice freshman class that includes 5-6 guard Emily Reichert and 6-1 forward Rachel Valley.
Rash and Youngblut are both transfers that have potential,” Curfman said. “And I really like Emily and Rachel right now.”
Thompson said the two transfers are an asset because they have experience at the college level.
“They’re fitting in well,” the captain said of the newcomers. “They understand our plays and our systems already. It’s also good to have transfers in, too. Since I’ve been here we haven’t had a lot. But they already know how the college game is played so it’s nice.”
The Beavers should be better able to go inside this season because of their increased height inside. BSU was near the bottom of the conference in rebounding and blocked shot statistics, which the Beavers are hoping changes this season.
“I think we’re going to get a lot more rebounds than last year,” Thompson said. “We have a lot of taller people and a lot of the bigger players back. So getting more second chances and more defensive rebounds will be a big thing for us.”
Curfman also thinks BSU will be able to pick it up on both sides of the floor.
“I think we can fast break, and we can go inside if we need to go inside,” Curfman said. “We can get after it on the defensive end a little more than we’ve been able to in the past, too.”
With such promising depth, the Beavers hope the inconsistency that hampered them last year won’t be a problem.
“We had some big wins but we weren’t consistent,” Curfman said. “So if we can carry forward some things last year that were good and add these new players in, it will be a fun season.”