After a record-breaking 2012-13 season, Augustana women’s basketball is off to a good start for success this year.
The No. 14 ranked Vikings kicked off their season with a 95-79 home opener win against Jamestown College last Saturday, Nov. 16, followed by a 75-65 win against William Penn University on Tuesday, Nov. 19.
Senior guard Emily Schulte led the Vikings with a career-high 22 points in the win against Jamestown and scored 18 against William Penn, totaling a .480 field goal percentage on the year. Schulte was named this season’s NSIC Preseason Player to Watch.
Getting off to a slow start, Schulte said nerves played a part in the first half against Jamestown, especially for the underclassmen. The teams were tied at 40 points heading into halftime.
The Vikings came out more aggressive in the second half, their defensive pressure causing 11 turnovers for the Jimmies. Augustana used that momentum for a 13-6 run in the first three minutes and was able to maintain their double-digit lead the rest of the game.
“I think that we really stress energy when going up against any opponent,” sophomore guard Riley Nordgaard said. “We like to push the tempo and score in transition. We also take pride in putting on pressure, harassing the opposing team defensively.”
The aggressive tactic worked well for the Vikings, resulting in the offense being able to score. Junior forward Rhianna Gullickson contributed 15 points and six rebounds for the Vikings, senior guard Shaunteva Ashley added 16 points with 10 for 10 at the free-point line, and Nordgaard helped with 12 points and seven rebounds.
“I was pretty pleased with our performance in the second half, and over all it was a good first win,” Schulte said. “The game gave us a good feel for what we have ahead and what we need to work on.”
Coming off last year’s record season of 28-7 and making it to the NCAA Division II Final Four, the Vikings said their goal this year is to just be competitive and have a winning season.
“I believe that coming off such an astounding season last year has only set the tone for this upcoming season,” Nordgaard said. “We aren’t the same team we were last year, but I believe that we hold ourselves to just as high of standards.”
With 16 players, roster numbers are the same as last year, but the Vikings are working to fill the shoes of graduating seniors Cami Koehn, Lydia Nelson, Faith Tinklenberg and Alex Feeney. Juniors Andrea Whitney and Emily Bose also left the team after last season.
“Like any other season, the older, experienced girls are doing everything they can to help the younger girls become who they can be,” Schulte said. “It’s a great feeling to be on winning teams, and I want to make sure [the underclassmen] experience that as well.”
Freshman forward Hayley McCarron is starting off her Augustana career with a bang. Only scoring three points in the home opener, McCarron came back to lead the team with her first career double-double of 16 points and 11 rebounds against William Penn.
“It was great to get out on the court and compete in an actual game,” McCarron said, saying practices consist of mostly drills and scrimmages.
The Vikings took an early lead against the Statesmen, helped by a series of three-pointers from Schulte and redshirt freshman Alex Kneeland. Augustana took a 45-32 lead going into halftime.
William Penn came back strong in the second half, but Augustana was able to keep the lead, winning 75-65, thanks to some key baskets by McCarron in the final minutes.
Schulte finished with 18 points, five assists and three rebounds. Gullickson had a career-high 10 rebounds and Kneeland had a career-high nine points after hitting 3-of-5 three pointers.
Augustana women’s basketball (2-0 as of Wednesday) played against Presentation College on Thursday, Nov. 21. Next up, the Vikings take on Wayne State at 6 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 25 in Wayne, Neb.