By: Shea Stine
The Women’s basketball team had a year for the record books last year, being ranked nationally for most of the year, finishing 25-6 and making the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Tournament.
Unfortunately, the Lady Hawks will have big holes to fill with the losses of Maggie Cunningham, Erin Mennemeyer, Kara Gerbus and Carly Beebe, who have all graduated. Cunningham is a big loss after she had a historic career at Quincy, starting all four years at point guard and scoring 1000 points. Cunningham was named All-Great Lakes Valley Conference first team Gerbus was named All-GLVC second team last season.
Although this loss of leadership may cause concern for some, head coach Jeni Garber isn’t worried about her team.
“This team has a lot of chemistry,” Garber said. “This group has come together very well, and I am excited about that. We lost a lot of leadership from last year’s team, but everyone has taken the leadership role as a group this year.”
One of the prominent leaders will be junior forward Anika Webster, who was named All-GLVC second team last year and the GLVC freshman of the year in 2015. Webster was the second leading scorer last year averaging 12.3 points per game and 4.9 rebounds per game.
Another player the Lady Hawks will count on in the post is graduate transfer Cha Cha Williams. Garber said that Williams’s strength and physicality is a good addition. Williams, who transferred from Seton Hill University, will be eligible to play immediately because she earned her degree last year.
Williams and Webster will be key threats in the post in order to open up perimeter shooting. The Lady Hawks were the fifth best 3 point shooting team in NCAA Division II last season, making 39.1% of their 3-pointers.
“Our three point shooting was great last year, but we don’t want to rely on it,” Garber said. “We want to make sure we establish our offense inside to open up the outside shooting. We bring a bunch of good shooters back so we want to have that balanced attack that starts inside.”
Senior guard Nikia Edom transferred in last season and made an immediate impact, shooting 43.5% from 3-point and averaging 8.8 points per game. In addition to Edom, Megan Wienstroer will be a key on the outside after shooting 49% from 3 point last year and averaging 4.1 points per game.
Garber brought on four freshmen, Shelby Holt, Jennifer Warfield, Alexa Low and Jessica Merino to counter the losses to graduation, and they are all expected to compete for playing time.
The Lady Hawks jump into the season head first. They will travel to Division I Indiana State for an exhibition November 4, but the real test will come when they open the season at Grand Valley State, who made the NCAA Final Four last season. The Lady Hawks defeated Grand Valley State last year 62-60 at home in the second game of the season.
The GLVC will be challenging again for the Lady Hawks as four teams finished in the top 25 of the final USA Today Coaches poll last season, including two in the top ten. Three teams, Bellarmine (13), Lewis (15) and Drury (19), have been picked in the preseason top 25 this season.
“It’s a tough and balanced conference,” Garber said. “Lewis, Truman State, Drury Rockhurst Bellarmine and every other team will give you a good game. We will have to bring our best every night because the conference is so deep.”
The Lady Hawks have their first home games November 18 and 19 when they host Minnesota State-Moorhead and Winona State in the QU Subway Tip-Off Classic.