Nine days ago, Jeremy Hoeck and I looked at the upcoming schedule for the Mount Marty women and had just one thought: This could be a long two and a half weeks.
Then they beat Morningside, the top-ranked team in NAIA Division II at the time. (Lancers had lost to them 68-58 on Nov. 18)
Then they beat Concordia, tied for fifth in last week’s poll. (MMC lost to them 77-59 on Dec. 12)
Wednesday night, 15th-ranked Dakota Wesleyan fell to the Lancers. (MMC lost to them 72-47 on Nov. 24, the Lancers’ worst setback of the season.) That put the Lancers at 15-8 overall, 9-6 in the Great Plains Athletic Conference.
And, if you want to go back a little further, the Lancers beat then No. 3 Hastings on Dec. 19.
If you ask the Lancer players, they credit both confidence and defense for helping the team make its current run (9 wins in 12 games, 4 over nationally-ranked opponents) possible. The defense can definitely be credited in the last two games, where teams that scored 72 and 77 points on MMC the first time around scored 60 and 52 points in round two. Even against Morningside, which scored 77 points on MMC, was held six points under their season average.
When looking at the stats, it is easy to look at the play of Alex Kneeland as being a factor. The senior from Summit is averaging 21.4 points per game – second in the GPAC and fourth in the nation in that category – by using laser-like precision from outside (.421).
But Kneeland’s numbers only tell part of the story.
Senior Raquel Sutera has been a double-double machine (8), averaging 11.9 points and 8.9 rebounds per season. Kellie Winckler (5.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg) has had a couple of late as well. Logan Wagner, who is averaging 9 ppg, has found her stroke of late, including a career-high 26 points in the Morningside win.
Even some of the Lancers “role players” have had big games: Mikayla Prouty (4.3 ppg) with 23 points in the victory against McPherson (Kan.), Sam Blake (3.4 ppg) with 10 points on 5-5 shooting against Concordia, Sammy Kasowski (2.6 ppg) with 11 points against Northwestern, etc.
The run by MMC has the Lancers now in a tie for fifth with DWU and a game behind second-place Briar Cliff and Hastings. The final two games of their run of five straight games against nationally-ranked opponents ends with those two teams on the road, at No. 13 Hastings on Saturday and at No. 12 Briar Cliff on Feb. 3.
But even if the Lancers came come through those two games unscathed, things don’t get any easier. Doane, which beat Concordia by 36 on Wednesday night, comes to Laddie E. Cimpl on Feb. 6. Northwestern, which MMC replaced as the sixth GPAC team getting votes in the NAIA poll, hosts the Lancers on Feb. 10.
Needless to say, it could be an exciting February – and maybe March – for the Lancer women.