Press Box

Christa Erickson
Christa Erickson


MARQUETTE, Mich. - There is a sense of excitement surrounding the Northern Michigan University women’s basketball team as it enters the 2009-10 season. The bar has been set high by fifth-year coach Troy Mattson. The team is looking to improve on last year’s 14-14 overall record and 9-14 mark in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) and move up in the conference and nationally.
For the second year in a row the team must replace its leading scorer. Kelsey Deacon and her 16.3 points per game are gone. She was the lone member of the team last year to average over 10 points a game. Deacon was selected to the GLIAC North Division second team last year. She also led the team in assists (85). 
The Wildcats also must replace Cassi Rushford, Cassie Hegbloom and Natalie Larocque. “This is the first couple of recruiting classes I have had here,” said Mattson. “They know exactly what I am looking for. We have some experience from people who have played major minutes.” 
Look for a number of people to battle for time at one of the guard spots. Stephanie Stoeger, who started 26 games last year, is a prime candidate. She led the team last year with 45 steals and averaged 7.7 ppg. Kellie Rietveld, started all 28 games last year and averaged 7.0 ppg and was second on the team with 79 assists. 
Christa Erickson appeared in all 28 games and is expected to see time in the backcourt. She was second on the team in three-pointers with 50 for .397 percent. Holly Cole found her way into the lineup after getting back into the swing of things. After not playing since the 2004-05 season. She was 40-100 in three-pointers last year for .400 percent. Brynn Larsen is another returner who could see some quality minutes. She averaged almost four points a game last year.
Transfer Elicia Derusha can put up the points and will be looked to add the scoring punch. “She is getting better every day and is really going to help us,” said Mattson. Former NMU volleyball player Callie Youngman has joined the basketball squad so she should add some depth.     Another newcomer to the guard mix is Shannon Helminen. Mattson feels he is deep at the point guard spot with Larsen, Stoeger and Helminen. ‘They understand how to play,” said Mattson. “The other guards can add some big scoring punches at times.”
This area is a concern for the Wildcats because of the lack of depth. Coach Mattson is very high on transfer Mariah Dunham to take over some of the scoring load. She was one of the top scorers on the Wisconsin Badgers team. “She should be a top five player in the country. She is a Big Ten type of player as was a force in the conference. She gives us a great go-to person,” said Mattson. 
Other returners are Nicole Grengs, Lauren Beeler, Carla L’Esperance and Hillary Bowling. Bowling missed last year because of an injury. Grengs has the most experience out of the group as she appeared in nine games last year and scored 28 points. All should compete for some playing time. “Bowling coming back is going to add something along the baseline. She has the knack to get people the ball to get baskets,” said Mattson. 
Senior Angie Leckson has the potential to be a dominant force inside. Mattson feels that if Leckson has a great year then the ‘Cats will have a great year. Leckson was second on the team last year in rebounding by averaging 4.4 boards a game and had a team-high 17 blocked shots. She averaged a little over six points a game (6.1 ppg). “She really needs to focus on having a great senior year,” said Mattson. Erin Powers showed last year that she is very strong on the inside. Powers led the ‘Cats last year off the glass with 142 rebounds (5.1 rpg) and averaged 4.5 ppg. 
Jaclyn Davey saw limited time last year and could figure into the mix. Davey appeared in nine games last year and averaged almost two points a game (1.9 ppg). Newcomer Alexandria Nellis will add some depth to the area.
“Offensively, I would like to see more consistent play on the inside,” said Mattson. “Our biggest struggle has been to produce points in the post on a consistent basis.”
The team will open up the season with four games on the road. Two of the games are against NCAA Division II foes Minnesota-Duluth and Wisconsin-Parkside.  The ‘Cats have a return date with the Bulldogs in Marquette in December. NMU will face a tough conference slate with home-and-home games against such teams as Michigan Tech, Grand Valley State, Northwood and Hillsdale. Last year the ‘Cats advanced to the GLIAC Tournament as one of the top eight teams in the conference. ‘We need to get in the top four this year,” said Mattson. “We need to shoot for a conference championship this year.”
NMU is looking at a final four GLIAC Tournament position which would send the team to the NCAA Division II National Tournament. The team has made improvements under Mattson and is ready to take a big leap this year. The ‘Cats seem to have the confidence entering the season to make this happen if all the pieces can work together. 
### NMU ###


Prepared By
David Faiella
Sports Information Director