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Winning in transition: TMC women's basketball preview

Second-year head coach Dan Waldeck looks to improve with six returners and seven new recruits

Posted: November 11, 2009 10:05 p.m.
Updated: November 12, 2009 4:55 a.m.

The Master's College women's basketball team listens to head coach Dan Waldeck during a break between drills at practice Wednesday in Bross Gym.

 
The Master’s College women’s basketball team took a step backward last season.

The Mustangs finished tied for fifth in the Golden State Athletic Conference and missed the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Division I tournament for the first time in five years.

In his second year as head coach, Dan Waldeck hopes to turn things around.

He’ll have a deep, young team to help him do it.

“A lot of players are going to play a lot of minutes,” Waldeck said. “We’ll play nine or 10 players each night. We want to lead with defense and rebounding.”

The team features six returning players and seven newcomers, including five freshmen and two transfers.

The Mustangs lost their preseason exhibition games against Loyola Marymount and UCLA, but both schools are NCAA Division I teams, and returning point guard Erica Inge said the team gelled well in the preseason

“Honestly, I think after playing a few scrimmages we look really good,” Inge said. “We’ll know when the season gets here. After playing UCLA (Monday), I think we can beat anyone.”

Inge is one of the key returnees, along with senior off-guard Annie Gillespie and senior forward Jenna Reed.

Gillespie averaged 13 points and 5.5 rebounds last season while shooting 48.1 percent from the floor, and she was named a first-team National Christian College Athletic Association All-American for the third straight season.

Gillespie enters the season as The Master’s College’s all-time leader in 3-point field-goal percentage and free-throw percentage.

Inge, meanwhile, averaged 12.2 points, 5.5 assists and 4.3 rebounds and excelled on the defensive end to earn a spot on the NCCAA All-America second team.

“I think all of them combined will provide leadership for us throughout the year,” Waldeck said. “They have the talent and they have the respect of their teammates.”

Reed is more of a workmanlike player, doing under-the-radar tasks like setting screens and boxing out.

Her game is somewhat indicative of The Master’s College heading into the season.

Waldeck said that the four teams that finished ahead of TMC in last year’s GSAC standings bring most of their players back.

The Master’s College, meanwhile, lost forward Stacy Nanninga to graduation. Nanninga ranks in the school’s top 10 in several statistical categories, including points, field goal percentage, rebounds, steals and blocked shots.

The Mustangs also lost long-range sniper Amanda Durocher, as she used up all of her basketball eligibility.

Waldeck said as a result, his team is flying under the radar.

“I believe we can compete for the conference championship,” Waldeck said. “Our motto this year is ‘one.’ That’s taking it one day at a time, not looking past today’s practice or situation, and I think if we work on that the conference race will take care of itself.”

So far, the players are embracing that attitude.

“We love it,” Reed said. “We just want to be able to come out and surprise people. It’s a lot more fun to play when you don’t have pressure on you to do well.”

Last year, the pressure was there given The Master’s College’s recent success, but the team had to deal with injuries and players sitting out after transferring.

As a result, Inge said the Mustangs typically suited up just eight or nine players for most games.

This year, that doesn’t figure to be an issue.

According to Waldeck, senior forward Brittany Henderson will also be part of the starting lineup, while the final spot is up for grabs.

Henderson is a transfer from Pierce College, and Waldeck praised her ability to defend and play multiple positions.

Junior guard Brook Bekendam is in her third year at The Master’s, and Waldeck called her the best on-ball defender on the team. Lanky freshman guard Lena Rivera will also compete for a starting spot.

With a starting lineup that could feature four players at 5 feet 11 inches or taller, Waldeck believes his team’s size can neutralize opponents.

“It’ll be interesting to see if we can guard people who are quicker than us on the wing,” he said. “Our length should give teams problems. We hope to keep them to one shot and run.”

Another tall player is versatile sophomore forward Morgan Schwegler, whom Waldeck said could start for most teams in other conferences, and sophomore guard Carrie Crawford also returns.

The program brought in a pair of sharpshooters in sophomore guard Ella Joines, who transferred from Union University in Jackson, Tenn., and freshman guard Kimmy Iverson.

Two freshman guards, Amanda Smith and Saugus graduate Lauren Labat, should also get minutes this season.

Labat attended Simpson University in Redding this past year and didn’t play basketball, but she retains freshman eligibility after transferring to The Master’s College.

She’s one of two locals on the squad, along with Santa Clarita Christian graduate and freshman guard Karla Eberlein.

“We love the opportunity to bring great kids in who are Santa Clarita talents,” Waldeck said. “Karla had a good career at SCCS. We’re excited to have her a part of our program. (Labat) is still learning and kind of getting back into the swing of things.”

The team is looking to get back into the NAIA Division I tournament this season.

“Right now, we’re all on a learning curve,” Reed said. “When it comes to team chemistry, this is by far the best chemistry I’ve had since I’ve been here at Master’s."

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