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Basketball Sports

Experienced, healthy Bulldogs ready for 2011 season

Photo by Matt Moran

With returning starters at every position, the Drake women’s basketball team has plenty to be excited about heading into the 2011-12 season.

The Bulldogs’ top returning player is senior center Rachael Hackbarth. Hackbarth came on strong at the end of last season, averaging almost 25 points per game during the final seven outings. She is Drake’s top returning scorer (14.6 points per game) and rebounder (8.1 rebounds per game).

“Going back to early September (2010), Rachael had hip and back issues,” head coach Amy Stephens said. “She played with nagging injuries, playing back into game shape…The consistency that we saw at the end of the season made a difference in the success we had. It creates more balance.”

Drake has seven returning letterwinners, including redshirt junior point guard Brittnye McSparron. McSparron had a stellar freshman season before her career took a back seat to injuries. Now she is healthy and eager to get back on the floor. She is expected to play a key role in the back court.

“It feels good (being healthy),” McSparron said. “Last year was like being on the practice squad.”

In addition to McSparron, Drake’s back court features senior Amber Wollschlager, redshirt freshman Carly Grenfell, junior Kayla Person, sophomore Alyssa Marschner and freshmen Kyndal Clark and Liza Heap. This group will have to find a way to replace the production of All-Missouri Valley Conference first team performer Kristin Turk, who Drake lost to graduation last spring. Turk averaged 20 points per game last year, which was tops in the MVC.

“We’re a little bit more disciplined on offense, but we miss that go-to guard,” Stephens said. “In all the years that I’ve coached, somebody always steps up. I have a lot of confidence that that will happen this year for our team as well.”

Freshmen Cara Lutes and Symone Daniels lead an impressive recruiting class and are expected to contribute right away.

Senior Alex Montgomery and sophomore Morgan Reid will help Hackbarth in the post. Reid was second on the team in rebounding (4.5 per game) last season.

With McSparron back at point guard, Person moves to her natural off-guard position. Person averaged 5.8 points per game and is a prime candidate to shoulder some of the scoring load voided by Turk.

The Bulldogs have one of the toughest non-conference schedules ever under Stephens. The schedule features matchups with Illinois-Chicago, Iowa, Iowa State and Wisconsin.

“I think we’re going to be a team that surprises a lot of people this year,” Wollschlager said. “The last month has been good, building chemistry. I’m anxious for games to start.”

Drake opens the season with an exhibition against Upper Iowa on Nov. 2 at 7:05 p.m. at the Knapp Center.

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