The University of Nebraska at Omaha women’s basketball team, a Summit League surprise, was 14-5 before a late-season slide led to a 17-11 finish.
That was still well above expectations.
A major reason for the Mavericks’ success — a strong and productive senior class — also perhaps exposed part of the problem.
All-Summit wing Paige Frauendorfer, pesky point guard Jamie Nash and polished one-year transfer Carolyn Blair-Mobley each played close to 40 minutes a game for UNO. Their production kept them on the floor, but an overall lack of depth kept them on the floor, too.
“Do I think we had some tired bodies? Sure,” Mav coach Chance Lindley said. “You tell them keep pushing through it, but when you play 40 minutes a game and you do it all year — that could’ve been a factor.
“And also, once you start to see (conference) teams more than once, they figure out your strengths and weaknesses and they take away certain things. Because of our lack of depth, we didn’t have certain counters. That’s no one’s fault. We’re still missing those pieces.”
Now Lindley is recruiting to fill both, trying to find a way to replace a senior class that also included starting guard Carly Cator, while also trying to improve the team’s overall depth as it enters its third season as a Division I program.
At 7-9 in the Summit, the Mavs — picked to finish last in the nine-team league — tied for fifth. They were 14-11 against Division I opponents after going 2-11 against Division I foes in 2011-12.
“Overall as a staff we are very pleased,” Lindley said. “Every year you hope for improvement in your players and that your program is moving in the right direction. And it’s not just that we had more wins and more Division I wins, it’s moving in the right direction in all areas.”
All four departing seniors were perimeter-oriented offensive players.
UNO’s leading returning scorer is 3-point ace Ericka House, who averaged 9.0 points while playing an average of 25.4 minutes per game off the bench.
It gets tough to score the bulk of your points on the perimeter, an area Lindley would like to address.
“We definitely need some more paint points,” Lindley said. “It’s going to take time to get a complete, full roster, but we do have some of the right players on our roster. We just need to get more of the right players on our roster.”
Despite the major losses to graduation, Lindley isn’t ready to concede that 2013-14 will be a rebuilding season.
“When you lose four starters, whether you’re in a building stage like we are or if you’re an established program, it’s a big hit,” he said. “All you can hope for is to continue recruiting the right kids, and add those to the good returning players we have coming back. Our senior class helped us build a good foundation and set our expectations.
“Is next year a step back? I hope not. A lot depends on what happens once practice starts next year.”
Lindley has a steadily developing inside talent in 6-foot-4 Taijhe Kelly, who averaged 4.9 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.6 blocks as a sophomore starter. She was even more effective in league games, with averages of 4.5, 6.4 and 3.2
Lindley said the effectiveness of his perimeter-oriented players limited the minutes for a pair of 6-foot juniors, Casse Vaughn and Stacia Gebers.
Vaughn, primarily an inside threat, averaged 5.3 points in 10 minutes per game. Gebers, a versatile player who started as a sophomore and averaged 7.4 points in 26.3 minutes per game, averaged 2.3 points and 9.0 minutes in 2012-13.
Another veteran with extensive experience coming back next season is guard Cathleen Cox, who averaged 6.9 points as a freshman but 2.6 in seven games this season before suffering a season-ending knee injury.
Zenta Liepa, a 6-1 forward who averaged 3.6 points as a part-time starter in 2011-12 but missed 2012-13 with a knee injury, is expected to graduate and end her playing career, Lindley said.
Sophomore guard Myhiah Dotzler, a former walk-on, and freshmen Allison Jackson (forward) and Kate Bayes (guard) played sparingly but are looking to work into larger roles.
The Mavs signed two post players (6-1 Victoria Trowbridge of Naperville, Ill., and 6-0 Sami Pawlak of Geneva, Ill.) and two guards (6-0 Mikaela Shaw of Deweese, Neb., and 5-7 Madi Robson of Ankeny, Iowa) in November.
They have three more scholarships available.
“We’re doing some recruiting right now,” Lindley said. “I do like who we have coming back and coming in, but we do have a few scholarships to give if it makes sense. If it doesn’t make sense, then we’ll just save them for the 2014 class.”
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