BY JEREMY HOECK
About the only reference to “last year” I heard on Wednesday afternoon at the DakotaDome in Vermillion was when I asked the question.
So yeah, the University of South Dakota football team is far down the road from 2012.
Said senior defensive back Aaron Swift when I told him I’d get the ‘last year question’ over with right away, “The past is the past; we can’t change it. A one and ten record is definitely going to motivate us.”
Having not spent any time around the program since it started spring practices a few weeks ago, I was curious.
Just how had the Coyotes moved on?
First, word started trickling out that the team had been working more with strength coach Jevon Bowman, himself a former USD player. Multiple records were set in various weightlifting categories, the team has focused extra attention on nutrition, and the players had even started doing yoga to improve flexibility.
Said senior defensive back Devin Taverna, “There were guys throwing around weights that was ridiculous for their positions. It’s definitely different getting after it like that upstairs.”
As more and more time was spent in the weight room, results started coming.
And as I looked around the practice field Wednesday (inside, naturally, because of the weather), yes, you could tell in some cases were linemen either bulked up or skill players trimmed down.
Here’s what head coach Joe Glenn had to say about the work ethic:
“Jevon did a super job. They kicked it up there. He said it was the hardest they’ve ever worked. All the coaches say this; we needed birthdays, but you also need a year to work hard off the field. They’ve torn that place (weight room) apart. Every morning they’re there at six o’clock.”
Team unity has also been a focus, according to coaches and players. There have been more off-the-field functions as a team, including some bowling tournaments and other gatherings.
Do the players think all these things will translate to the field come fall?
Taverna thinks so.
“That’ll go a long way. Just look at last year’s schedule, we lost four games by three points. It was that one little edge we needed. This year, the team’s unity brings us that edge.”
Other observations from Wednesday’s practice (keeping in mind that the freshman class and other transfers will join the fray in the fall):
•• The secondary is experienced, but until some other players come to campus to compete for the depth chart, but not all that deep.
Back from key time last season are Taverna, Swift, Dyllon Knox (Sr.) and Ricky Reeves (So.). Also returning are Steve Tellefsen (Jr.), Isaac Fairbair (So.), Will Armstead (RFr.) and Zeke Lewis (RFr.).
When I asked Swift what improvements he thinks the defense needs to make for 2013, he pointed to takeaways. The Coyotes had 11 total last year (6 interceptions and 5 fumble recoveries).
•• Linebacker is a position that has already drawn rave reviews from the coaching staff, especially from Glenn on Wednesday. Guys like Ryan Hillier (So.), Tyler Starr (Sr.) and Keyen Lage (So.) are back from significant time last season, and should have solid years. Then you have guys like Colin Buscarini (So.), Kyle Guziec (Jr.) and junior college transfer Kyle Staples (Jr.).
•• Offensive line will be a big focal point for 2013. Last year’s group struggled with self-inflicted penalties, such as holding and offsides — absolute drive killers. Those issues didn’t allow quarterback Josh Vander Maten much time to maneuver, yet on the flip side, he struggled. It was a vicious cycle the team is looking to reverse this year.
The Coyotes return four of five starters from a year ago, including Derek Chancellor (So.), Cody O’Neill (Sr.), Andrew Schofield (Jr.) and Matt Huffer (Jr.). Also back are Steve Nelson (Sr.) and Marc Murtha (Sr.).
•• USD also has two new assistant coaches this season. Matt Middleton joined the program as wide receivers coach, while Jace Rindahl is coaching running backs. Middleton was previously at the University of Kansas and Rindahl came from Wisconsin-Whitewater.
•• Part of the new identity for the program involved a team motto. The players chose “Band of Brothers” and sport black wristbands with that motto on them.
COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa — Tavian Pomlee, a 6-foot-5 forward at Iowa Western Community College, committed to the University of South Dakota men’s basketball program, according to a post on his Twitter page Thursday.
Pomlee averaged 13.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.2 steals per game as a sophomore for Iowa Western this past season. The Reivers went 32-3 and lost in the Elite 8 of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division I Tournament.
A native of Davenport, Iowa, Pomlee would have two seasons of eligiblity with the Coyotes.
BY CHRIS RILEY
VERMILLION — Since I had the privilege to attend almost every singe Coyote women’s basketball home game this season – along with their road game in Brookings and the Summit Tourney games – I wanted to take a little time to break down the 2012-13 season for the Coyotes from my own perspective.
I have to believe that finishing the year 19-16 (10-6 Summit Regular Season), including a semifinal Women’s Basketball Invitational appearance and near-miss at the Summit Championships for a spot in the Big Dance, has to be considered a successful season for a new coach with so many new faces on the sidelines this season.
The 10 individuals that made it happen for the Coyotes this season:
Alexis Yackley – G – Onida, SD: Yackley played her third season for the Coyotes after coming off the bench for a 27-9 Iowa State squad in ’08-’09. Yackley started all 35 games this season, and 94 of 98 during her career in Vermillion. The former Sully Buttes star never got her shooting nailed down during the year (31% FG, 9% 3′s, 35% FT), but 5-7 senior finished third on the club in rebounding (5.2 RPG) and recorded one of the top Turnover-to-assists ratios in the nation. Yackley finished the year with 187 assists (5.3 APG) – two more per contest than her closest teammates, and sits 4th in assists on the All-Time USD list. It was obvious from the press table that Alexis was the leader of this team vocally on the court and she was extremely well-spoken off of it as well.
Tempestt Wilson – G – Elk River, MN: Wilson, who came to USD from Iowa Western via a self-professed “packaged deal” with Charlie Westbrook and made an immediate impact on the Coyotes that carried own through all three years as USD’s shooting guard. Wilson started 96 of her 98 games for the ‘Yotes, including the final 82 over the last two-plus seasons. This year, Wilson finished second on the club in scoring (12.9 PPG) and converted the most free throws (100-of-130) while scoring double-digit points in 26 of 35 games, including 23 of the final 25 games of 2012-13. Wilson was a rare talent who was equally impressive shooting the three as she was attacking the rim and drawing a foul. Her production will be missed as she accounted for 20% of the team’s offense in her final year.
Sam Mehr – G – Apple Valley, MN: Mehr will go down in my memory as the Steve Kerr of the 2012-13 USD Coyotes – coming off the bench to drain a three-pointer when called on – and also making the hustle play that might not show up in the box score but certainly had a positive effect on the outcome of the game. Mehr never started at USD – although she did appear in more games (117) than anyone else on this year’s roster – and the next closest returner (Lisa Loeffler – 53 appearances) is 64 games – essentially two full seasons – behind that mark. Mehr, a 5-9 guard, will be most remembered for her play in the first two rounds of the initial Summit League Tournament appearance by USD, both second-half comeback wins. In those two games – wins again NDSU and IUPUI – Mehr combined for 23 points (her highest back-to-back total of the year), going 7-of-11 on threes. In the conference finals loss to SDSU, Mehr took just one shot, a two-pointer from the corner just a step inside of the three-point line. She drained it.
Pam January – F – Richfield, MN: January started the first 17 games of the season at forward before moving to a bench role in favor of Loeffler. Not that I would have heard it anyone, but I would bet the house that January did not grumble for one moment about the move. Finishing her career with 100 total games played, Pam took few shots during her senior campaign (just 81), instead dishing the ball for 32 assists and grabbing 82 rebounds – not bad numbers for someone who averaged 13 minutes per game. January provided needed muscle in the lineup at coach Amy Williams did not seem to hesitate to put her in during any situations throughout the season. She was another player who came up big when it mattered most, grabbing six rebounds in just 12 minutes of action against the Bison in first-round Summit League Championship play.
Polly Harrington – F – Kansas City, MO: Harrington, a junior who spent her freshman year playing for Louisville (yes, that Louisville) before transferring to Johnson County CC and then onto USD for the 2012-13 season, was a bit of an anomaly during the season. She scored double-digit points in 23 games and recorded four double-doubles. Harrington also finished third on the team in scoring average (11.1 PPG), second in FG percentage (49%), first in 3-point percentage (42%), third in FT percentage (78%), and second in rebounds (5.8 RPG); but at times she seemed to almost completely disappear from games, scoring six or fewer points on six occasions. When hot however, Harrington (who started all 35 games) was excellent at putting the ball up off the glass down low and grabbing rebounds, especially with second-chance put-backs. With a little more consistency, Harrington will have a big senior season next year.
Nicole Seekamp – G – Renmark, South Australia: The biggest questions mark entering the season was what were the Coyotes going to get out of Seekamp, who sat out last year as a redshirt. An outstanding prep player in South Australia, Seekamp did not disappoint in her NCAA Division I debut season for the Coyotes. The 5-10 guard started all 35 games and led the team in scoring (14.9 PPG), FT percentage (84%) and steals (1.6 SPG). Seekamp drove to the rim and picked up fouls seemingly at will, and has a killer pull-up jumper that she can use from anywhere on the floor, including behind the three-point arc. Seekamp became just the eighth Coyote in school history to record more than 500 points in a season and was named the Summit League Tournament MVP as well as an regular season honorable mention All-Summit League team selection and the All-Newcomer team selection. With two years of eligibility left, Seekamp will have the chance to turn her sometimes scary-good game into one of the elite scorer/defender combos in D1 hoops – she has that kind of talent.
Lisa Loeffler – F – Maplewood, MN: The emergence of Loeffler, as well as underclass teammate Margaret McCloud, had to be one of the highlights and bright surprises for the 2012-13 Coyotes. Working her way into the starting lineup for the final 18 games of the regular season after a year and a half off the bench, Loeffler was a force to be reckoned with down low and on the boards as the season wore on. The 6-1 sophomore grabbed 173 boards and scored 192 points a year after finishing with 22 total rebounds in limited action as a freshman. Loeffler averaged nearly 10 points per game after being inserted into the starting lineup and grabbed over five rebounds per contest during that starting stretch. I would look for Loeffler and McCloud to form a 1-2 punch in the post for the next two seasons.
Margaret McCloud – C – Rapid City, SD: McCloud, one of three true freshman (all of whom played at SD AA schools) to see action this year, has perhaps the most upside of any individual that saw action for the Coyotes this season. The 6-2 former Rapid City Stevens Raiders standout played even taller than her height, leading the club in rebounds (6.9 RPG) despite playing just over 18 minutes per contest. McCloud also led the team in FG percentage (52%), while averaging 6.8 points per game. Margaret posted three double-doubles, and despite missing three of the final four conference games with an injury (she played in all other 32 contests), McCloud hit double-digit points on seven occasions and grabbed 10 or more rebounds seven times, including a whopping 19 against Peru State in December. As Margaret continues to get conditioned to the college game and 20-minute halves, look for her to make an even bigger impact for the Coyotes.
Heidi Hoff – F – Brandon, SD: Hoff, the former Brandon Valley star, saw fairly limited action throughout the season, averaging 9.8 minutes per game, but she made the most of her opportunities. Although struggling from the field (30% FG’s), Hoff hit some big shots in big spots throughout the season, including scoring a season-high 16 points against Seton Hall. Take away a 1-for-10 shooting performance against Idaho State in only her seventh ever college game and Heidi’s numbers improve greatly. Standing at 5-10, Hoff showed some definite three-point shot abilities while also possessing the size to get in the paint. Heidi also demonstrated a knack for reading plays on defense and came up with a few timely steals throughout the season. Look for Heidi to improve and play a key role of the bench next season.
Tia Hemiller – G – Watertown, SD: Call Tia Hemiller what you’d like, but don’t call her boring. The 5-6 guard from Watertown had 10 games during the season where she did not even attempt a shot, and averaged just 6.8 minute per game, but that can mostly be attributed to the amount of minutes that Alexis Yackley played at the PG position all season long. Head Coach Amy Williams frequently referred to Tia as a “firecracker” when she would come off the bench in short spurts. That analogy seems pretty accurate, as Hemiller was never short on energy. Hemiller plays with a great court sense, always with her eyes up and looking around, whether with the ball, rotating around the wing, or on defense. Her future role with the squad is definitely a mystery to me, especially after her minutes peaked back during the second month of the season, but hopefully she finds a niche on this club.
That does it for my breakdown of the 2012-13 USD Coyotes. Next sure should be full of excitement, with plenty of talent returning, including four players who did not even get on the court this season due to injuries. That is like one whole recruiting class in itself, and that does not even count next year’s true freshman.
I predict that 2013-14 will see the Coyotes possibly rise up the challenge SDSU for the regular season league title. The Jackrabbits do lose some talent to graduation (glaringly, Ashley Eide), but SDSU also returns plenty of key players from their fifth consecutive conference championship team. Hopefully the State/U rivalry will once again be featured at the Arena in South Dakota’s own brand of March Madness in the Summit League title game.
Feel free to leave a comment, drop an e-mail (email@example.com) or shot out on Twitter (@ChrisCRiley)
*All Photos Courtesy of Yankton P&D and available for purchase at spotted.yankton.net
VERMILLION — Amy Williams was wrapping up her team’s quarterfinal run through the NAIA Tournament. Nicole Seekamp was in street clothes on the bench watching her Coyotes compete in another tournament.
That was a year ago.
Now, they’re joined together as coach and player for the University of South Dakota women’s basketball team, which hosts McNeese State tonight (Thursday) at 7 p.m. in the Women’s Basketball Invitational (WBI) semifinals at the DakotaDome.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” Williams said before a team practice this week. “I feel like most of the year I’ve been dog-paddling, trying to keep my head above water. But here we are.”
— — — —
The Press & Dakotan will have full coverage of Thursday night’s semifinal game, with a game story and a column. We will also have updates on Twitter.
Follow twitter.com/jhoeck and twitter.com/ChrisCRiley
BY JEREMY HOECK
It was only six minutes, but Chloe Cornemann was out there for a physical, intense and highly-entertaining Summit League women’s basketball championship game Tuesday afternoon in Sioux Falls.
I caught up with the Yankton native and South Dakota State freshman guard after the game for a short Q&A. Here is part of that chat.
Jeremy: What it was like to be out there?
Chloe: It was an unbelievable experience. I’m not going to lie, I was very nervous. This place was packed. It was so fun to watch my team have success like that and get the ‘W.’
Jeremy: I suppose when you were recruited, this was brought up, right?
Chloe: Yeah, I was told that I could get some serious playing time. And with the history of SDSU, I knew this was as very likely chance that we’d be here. It’s exciting, knowing that and what the future holds; that we could be here again next year.
Jeremy: Coach (Aaron Johnston) said it wasn’t necessarily sweeter that you did it again by beating USD, but it had to be pretty sweet, right?
Chloe: Like coach said, anyone we would’ve played, it would have been just as sweet. It’s fun for the crowd and the state of South Dakota, packing this place. It’s the rivalry with all the blue and the red; it’s good that it’s back.
Jeremy: Was it different from watching it in the stands?
Chloe: Oh yeah, a hundred times different. The nerves, the feelings, the intensity, it was definitely different.
Jeremy: How about the idea of the rivalry reaching a national stage?
Chloe: You’re going to get a better game if you do have a rivalry. It’s more emotional, so for that to be on national television is pretty cool.