GEORGETOWN, Texas - With just five juniors and seniors on the roster most teams would be concerned about experience, but not this year's Southwestern women's basketball team. SU returns all but one player and starter from last year's squad that was just eight points shy of the conference finals.
Without the ability to surprise, Head Coach Kerri Brinkoeter has assembled a deep, talented group to take on the 2012-13 season. "They are working extremely hard in practice and the intensity level has been really high. They are doing everything I ask of them and more," states Brinkoeter. "They have set their expectations really high as well."
Offensively, SU will continue to play an uptempo style, but are adding a new flair with a motion style offense that will keep opponents on their toes. "Our offense has changed a bit form last year and is new to everyone," states Brinkoeter. "The team is still getting used to that and learning the flow without having to think about what they need to do instead of just doing it spontaneously."
Southwestern showed signs of being a great defensive team at times last season and are looking to fine tune their defense this season. "Defensively, we haven't changed much, but tweaked what we weren't good at last year," shares Brinkoeter. "We are focusing more on keeping people out of the middle which we were not successful at last year. We have been doing a good job in practice but will see how that plays out once we get into competition."
With a year under their belt, Coach Brinkoeter feels that the team is ahead of where they were last year and that is one of their biggest strengths kicking off the 2012-13 season. "It is amazing to me how a year makes a difference. With seven newcomers last year I didn't realize how much teaching went on and having more mature players this year has been a huge benefit. The first-years have been doing an incredible job but the returners have done really well in picking things up more easily and becoming a more cohesive unit."
A big part of that leadership comes from leading scorer Chelsea Leeder. A record holder already, Leeder will set a new record for most career three-pointers made early in the season, needing just seven to break the existing record of 134. A First Team All-SCAC selection last season, Leeder will do just that on the court, lead. "Chelsea was selected by her teammates to be captain this year and that has given her the confidence boost she needed to round out her game," states Brinkoeter. "She has always been confident in her playing abilities and basketball IQ, but now she is using that knowledge to help out her teammates and be an on the floor guide. She has come back in even better shape and that has made a huge difference in her ability to make and finish plays, get to the rim in addition to shooting on the perimeter."
Lone senior Katelyn Bartell has a dearth of knowledge to bring to the squad. As a four-year regular contributor for the Pirates, Bartell is best known for her hustle plays but brings so much more to the team in her senior season. "Katelyn is playing like a senior and playing really well right now. She is such a force on the court, not just in her hustle which we know she always provides, but also with her voice and leadership and the team has come to depend on her for stability and as an emotional leader."
Brinkoeter also returns SCAC Newcomer-of-the-Year Jordan Owens and Annie Bourne, who together make one of the best one-two punches in the lane in the conference. Owens was third on the team in points and second in rebounds last season while Bourne was fourth in scoring and first in rebounds, averaging over 10 per game. "Annie is our finesse girl and is a great rebounder while Jordan is so versatile and can cause a lot of problems, defensively, for other teams," states Brinkoeter. "They have done a great job for us and will have a huge impact if they play their game. They don't have to go outside the box or try to make plays on their own because the play is going to come to them."
Valerie Logan rounds out the returning starters for SU. Manning the point position, Logan ran the show with like a seasoned veteran last season. "Val is so strong and is doing a great job leading the team from the point position. She has a great shot from the perimeter and will help keep teams from collapsing down on our posts defensively."
Junior Brianna Guevara will provide an important second punch for the Pirates at the point guard position. A tenacious defender, Guevara's energy and constant pressure will keep opponents from catching a breath. "Bri came back in awesome shape and improved her game in the off season, both in her shooting and ability to get to the rim. The tandem of Val and Bri is going to be difficult for opponents. They are not only great at leading the team but are also great defensively and are going to cause some troubles for other teams."
Madison Eschle will continue to play an important role for the Pirates. "Madi is a defensive monster and I am thankful she plays for us and I don't have to face her. She is hard to guard and can do some things that you don't expect her to be able to do, but defensively she can wreak havoc on anyone with how agile she is."
Rounding out Southwestern's roster are four first-year players who have the ability to contribute throughout the season. Guard Audrey Garcia will provide an additional perimeter threat for Southwestern while Katilyn Rossa, Korey Coburn and Keeley Coburn will be solid backups for Bourne and Owens.
Southwestern wastes no time testing themselves as they open the season by hosting the Southwestern Tip-Off Tournament. SU faces two familiar and yet unknown opponents in Mary Hardin-Baylor and Texas Lutheran University. Both teams have a new head coach this season and UMHB returns only two players from last year's team.
The real telling games will be in the second half of December. Southwestern faces Concordia (TX) who won the American Southwest Conference last year and follow with Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Wartburg who finished 18-9 last season. The Pirates then travel to St. Louis for three games, one of which pits SU against Washington University who is in ninth in the D3hoops.com Preseason Poll.
Another new wrinkle this season is the new Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference. With only six teams this season, everyone will face each team three times, giving everyone ample opportunity to learn about their opponents. "We are going to make the best of it and navigate the schedule the best we can," states Brinkoeter. "Sweeping some teams will be very difficult and yet very important. There won't be any secrets as the conference tournament comes around. The first two teams get a bye and that will be crucial for those two teams as they proceed through the tournament."
Southwestern kicks off their season and home schedule on Friday night against the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. Game time is set for 8 p.m. and live stats and video will be available for those unable to attend the game.