April 8, 2020

Women’s basketball aims for conference tournament return

Women’s basketball looks a title this season following a loss in the conference tournament semifinals.

By Kaelin Triggs

Staff Writer

The Webster women’s basketball team is going into 2019-20 with its full starting five from last season. Along with the return of their starters, the Gorloks will also be returning eight other players, as well as five new freshmen. The women’s basketball team began practices on Oct. 15.

KAELIN TRIGGS/The Journal              Guard Naomi Johnson previously play for Greenville University, who eliminated Webster in the SLIAC tournament semifinals.

Coming back for his 13th season, head coach Jordan Olufson is excited about a returning well- developed team. The Gorloks went 17-9 last year, finishing fourth place in the conference’s regular-season standings. Webster lost in the conference tournament semifinals to Greenville University 68-65 in overtime.

Senior guard Jaysea Morgan said she has a goal of getting the team to the NCAA national tournament. According to Morgan, one thing that will help reach their goals is having so many returning players who are used to competing on the college level and can help the freshmen adjust.

“One struggle I think we faced in past seasons is being really cliquey,” Morgan said. “This year is different because we all get along really well. At this point, we’re just making that chemistry stronger.”

Morgan is coming back after earning second-team All-SLIAC and a spot on the SLIAC All-Defensive team. She averaged 10.3 points and three rebounds per game.

The Gorloks will also be returning two other starting guards: junior Naomi Johnson and sophomore Hannah Cottrell. Last season, Johnson averaged 10.4 points and 2.6 rebounds per game. Cottrell averaged 7.8 points per game and 4.3 rebounds per game.

“After 11 days of practice and scrimmage, we are on a good path,” Olufson said. “We stress that we just want to get better each day. If one person gets better, then we get better. Still a lot of work to do but we are a team in progress.”

The other two returning starters are junior forward Kaylee Heggemann and sophomore forward Addison Beussink. Heggemann averaged 9.8 points per game and 4.6 rebounds. Beussink is returning after earning third-team All-SLIAC and being named to the second team All-Tournament. Beussink averaged 12.5 points and 8.7 rebounds per game.

“We have depth, we have speed, quickness and we are athletic,” Olufson said. “I think we have the ability to be a team that will cause other teams to struggle with matching up with us.”

Along with the five returning starters, the team is also bringing back eight other players and five new freshmen. Julie Baudendistel, a freshman guard and forward, said they did a lot in the preseason to prepare for this year.

Baudendistel said the team did strength workouts before practices three days a week and open gyms two nights a week. Baudendistel said these workouts have helped her to adjust from high school to college basketball.

“It’s way different than high school,” Baudendistel said. “The pace of the game is definitely faster and I have had to talk more and learn more plays than in high school, but the other girls on the team are helping to make it easier.”

Along with Baudendistel, the Gorloks recruited four other newcomers, including freshman forward Ebonne Johnson. Johnson sat out last season due to a medical hardship waiver that gives a student-athlete an extra year of competition after missing a season due to injury. Other freshmen include guards Christina Branche, Kourtney Krege and Tiffany Sakamoto.

The team is going into the new season ranked third in the conference. Webster sits behind number-one-ranked Spalding University and number-two-ranked Greenville. Olufson believes that the Gorloks still have a chance at a conference championship despite the rankings.

“We have a lot of goals,” Olufson said. “We want to strive to be better than we were the day before. We can accomplish that by hard work. It’s just that simple. We have to want to outwork everyone we play each day in games and in practice.”

The Gorloks play their home opener on Nov. 15 against University of the Ozarks at 8 p.m. The game will be held at the Grant Gymnasium in the University Center.

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