Photo: Russell Marwitz/True To The Cru/russellmarwitz.com
FOREST GROVE, Oregon– After splitting the weekend at the ETBU Tournament, falling to Trinity (TX), and beating Rhodes, the Mary Hardin-Baylor women’s basketball team is on the West Coast for a pair of competitive matchups starting on Friday afternoon.
This preview is presented by Faithfully Fit. The organization, founded by Kyle Shipp, aims to create a community of individuals who are educated and committed to the pursuit of mental health and living fulfilling lives while being shaped by faith in Christ. Learn more at faithfullyfitcf.com.
Setting the Stage
Mary Hardin-Baylor (1-1, 0-0 ASC) vs Willamette (1-1, 0-0 NWC)
Date/Time: Friday, November 17, 4:00 p.m. CST
Mary Hardin-Baylor (1-1, 0-0 ASC) at Pacific (0-1, 0-0 NWC)
Date/Time: Saturday, November 18, 8:00 p.m. CST
Location: Forest Grove, Oregon (Stoller Center)
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This marks the first time UMHB has faced Pacific or Willamette. UMHB has faced three Northwest Conference programs in its D-III history, having battled Whitman, Whitworth, and Puget Sound within the past decade.
The Bearcats are off to a 1-1 start under 12th-year head coach Peg Swadener, and took down Whittier, 55-52, in their lone D-III matchup thus far. The three-point win on Sunday saw senior guard Jasmine Shigeno connect on a 3-pointer with 1.1 seconds left, breaking the 52-52 tie and giving Willamette its first victory of the season.
Shigeno is a solid offensive weapon in the backcourt, averaging 7.0 points per game. The biggest scoring threat for the Bearcats is forward Elyse Waldal, who enters Friday’s matchup against UMHB with 17.0 points per contest, and scored 23 in Sunday’s win. Ava Kitchin is another key contributor in the frontcourt, averaging 8.0 points and a team-best 8.0 rebounds per game.
On the offensive end, Willamette distributes the ball well, having recorded 19 assists against Bushnell in an 11-point season-opening loss and 16 against Whittier. This is also a strong rebounding team; Willamette has won the battle on the boards in each of its last two games.
Perhaps an under-the-radar frontrunner in the NWC, Pacific took down Alaska Anchorage, 76-75, in an exhibition on Nov. 5, but is 0-1 after falling to a talented Stevens team in its regular season opener on Nov. 10. The Boxers face Chapman on Friday before taking on UMHB on Sunday. Pacific is hosting this four-team tournament inside its 2,500-seat gym and seeking a strong weekend before heading to Central Texas next weekend for matchups against Southwestern and Concordia.
Fifth-year senior guard Brilie Kovaloff, a native of Honolulu, Hawaii, will be a playmaker to watch for the Boxers, as she scored a team-high 14 points against Stevens last Friday. Kovaloff has made 65 straight starts for the Boxers, dating back to the final game of the 2019-20 season, and is the most experienced player on the roster. Another Hawaii native, senior guard Marissa Layosa comes off a 12-point performance against Stevens, and is a quality defender as well for Pacific.
Overall, Pacific is an experienced, cohesive team that returns nearly its entire roster from last season, which has led to favorable preseason expectations for head coach Alecia Parker’s program. Parker is in her fourth year leading the Boxers.
The impact of the fourth quarter
The final 10 minutes proved to be a major turning point in both of UMHB’s games last weekend, though in entirely different ways. On Saturday, UMHB led 58-48 entering the fourth, only for Trinity to respond by scoring 36 points in the final quarter, en route to an 84-74 win for the Tigers. But on Sunday, it was the Crusaders who erased a seven-point deficit down the stretch, finishing the game on a 25-2 run as they won, 64-48. The fourth-quarter play is definitely a storyline to look for heading into this weekend’s contests.
Novak-Lenoir’s first season as head coach is underway
Katie Novak-Lenoir was hired in April as the next head coach of the program, and comes from D-II Hawaii Pacific University, where she spent the 2022-23 season. No stranger to the ASC, she led the program at Sul Ross State for five seasons, leaving as the all-time winningest coach in SRSU women’s hoops history. She earned her first victory as UMHB’s head coach in Sunday’s 64-48 victory over Rhodes.
Kaitlyn Kollmorgen is back on the roster as a senior post player for UMHB, and made an immediate impact with a 20-point effort in the season-opener against Trinity. An Honorable Mention All-ASC honoree in 2021-22, the Houston native is averaging 13.0 points and 6.0 rebounds per game, and should be key as UMHB battles Willamette in the post. Her return, after sitting out the 2022-23 season, has immediately added quality depth and experience to the Crusader frontcourt.
Baker taking charge
Lauren Baker emerged as a consistent scoring threat last weekend, and leads The Cru with 17.0 points per game. The senior guard from Grand Prairie had 18 points in the win over Rhodes, shooting 7-of-15 from the field. She also handles the ball well and puts her teammates in position to score, having dished out six assists against Trinity. Look for Baker to have a quality impact against Willamette and Pacific, especially on the offensive end.
On the Horizon
UMHB has a nine-day break from game action upon returning to Central Texas before hosting Schreiner at 5:00 p.m. on Nov. 27 in the home opener. Schreiner is 0-2 to start the 2023-24 season.