SLIAC women’s basketball preview: Webster to battle Westminster once again


Last season, the Webster University women’s basketball team was blown out twice by the Westminster College Blue Jays during the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference regular season. However, Webster stunned top-seeded Westminster on the Blue Jays’ home court in the 2011 SLIAC tournament championship game.

During the 2011-2012 regular season, Westminster once again handled Webster fairly easily twice.

“All the girls were laughing about deja vu because of last year,” junior point guard Maggie Zehner said. “We know what we need to do and have to do it. We just need to be relaxed.”

Zehner said she hopes lightning strikes twice for Webster. The fourth seeded Gorloks will travel to Fulton, Mo., on Feb. 24 for the first round of the SLIAC tournament. The Gorloks will face the No. 1-seeded Blue Jays on their home court at 8 p.m.

Webster enters the tournament having won four of five and the Gorloks are putting things together at the right time of year.

“We’re playing a lot better,” Webster coach Jordan Olufson said. “We’re finally scoring. Our chemistry is starting to build; we’re starting to rebound the ball, which has kind of been our Achilles’ heel — rebounding and turnovers. And you know, we’re starting to do that a little bit better, being a little more efficient and things.”

Webster’s shooting, which has been a major problem throughout the season, has improved dramatically the last few games. In Webster’s past three games — all Gorlok wins — Webster has shot 46 percent from the field.

“Our shooting has been really good the last few games and we’ll need to keep that up to win,” Zehner said.

The Blue Jays enter the tournament with a SLIAC record of 14-2 and are the heavy favorite in their game against the Gorloks. Westminster has a balanced scoring attack led by senior Rachel Backes (12.2 points per game) and sophomore Leigh Ann Lutz (12.0 ppg). Zehner said the key to the Gorloks winning is defense.

“We have to get more defensive stops early,” Zehner said. “We have to prevent Westminster from running it up on us at the beginning. If that happens, it makes it difficult because then we have to chip away to get back in the game.”

Webster enters the game with the same 10-6 conference record as last year, before the Gorloks took down Westminster in improbable fashion. The Gorloks earned its first trip to the NCAA Division III tournament since 2005 with the win over the Blue Jays.

“I think we have a real chance,” senior forward Tori Fenemor said. “Last year they beat us twice, but we were the ones who ended up going to the national tournament. It is really hard to beat a team three times in one season.”

Eureka College and Fontbonne University play in the other semifinal on Feb. 24 at 6 p.m. in Fulton. The SLIAC championship is slated to begin at 7 p.m. on Feb. 25 in Fulton.

“All season long we have been saying ‘Next time, next time,’” Zehner said. “We know there will be no next time if we don’t win Friday.”

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