2007
2007-08 Women's Basketball preview

2007-08 Women's Basketball preview
November 15, 2007

Dave Beyer, Sports Information Director
(630) 829-6143
dbeyer@ben.edu

Benedictine University head coach Paul Nelson has one of those “good news/bad news” things going on as he prepares his team for the 2007-08 women’s basketball season. The good news is that Nelson has two starters and eight letterwinners returning – among whom is last season's Northern Athletics Conference ‘Player of the Year’ Tamika Curtis (Nazareth Academy) – to the fold. The bad news is that the proverbial ‘target-on-the-back’ gets real big and expectations grow equally as large when you return the amount of talent that the Eagles have. Key among Nelson’s returning charges is the senior Curtis, a 6’0” post player who averaged 18.4 points and 11.0 rebounds per game last year and has already been tabbed as a pre-season All-America honorable mention for 2007-08. In her career, Curtis is averaging a double-double of 17.3 points and 10.4 rebounds per game, while shooting 53.2-percent from the field. “It's not like we can ‘sandbag’ people and make it sound like we have nothing,” said Nelson. "Everyone knows what Tamika can do and has done throughout her career. That’s no secret. But we lost two starters from our backcourt (Amanda Burditt and Dana Sullivan) and a forward (Lauren Zuro) who was our workhorse, so we still have some re-building to do. “It’s nice to have a player with Tamika’s ability to build around. As good as she is scoring and rebounding, she makes other players better. She was one of our team leaders in steals and assists, which facilitates the concept of a real ‘team’ style of game and that’s what we stress.” Curtis enters 2007-08 not only with an armload of accolades and statistical accomplishments to her credit, but is within 182 points of becoming the school’s all-time scoring leader. Likewise, if she has anywhere near a typical season, she’ll also end up with the rare accomplishment of over 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in her career. Joining Curtis is senior guard Megan Walczak (Hobart, Ind., H.S.), who missed the bulk of 2006-07 after suffering a season-ending knee injury in the ninth game. In her career, Walczak has averaged 6.9 points and 2.3 rebounds per game, while draining 73 three-point baskets. Also returning is senior guard Tiffany Hardy (Bradford, Wis., H.S.). Hardy has primarily served as the Eagles’ “sixth player,” but made spot starts as needed. In 2006-07, Hardy averaged 5.8 points and 2.1 boards per game, all the while shooting nearly 96-percent (22-23) from the free throw stripe. Benedictine has good depth at the guards where senior Angela Vitto (Oakridge, Mich., H.S.), sophomore Karissa Povlsen (DeKalb H.S.) and junior Blair Erickson (Serena H.S.) are all back after seeing ample court time in 2006-07. Returning to provide depth up front is sophomore Monika Krozel (Ridgewood H.S.), who averaged 4.8 points and 4.0 rebounds per game and sophomore Sara Sutherland (Winnebago H.S.). “I feel real good about the type of players we have back,” said Nelson. “They all saw a lot of minutes last year and really had a good grasp of what we were teaching them by the end of the year. It’s a positive that we can start out with this much battle-tested experience.” Nelson has very high hopes for his newcomers, as well. “We have some skilled players coming in. I look for most – if not all – of them to make key contributions right away.” Nelson’s guard corps will have sophomore transfer Kimberly Bulow (from Carthage College, and Providence Catholic H.S.), along with freshmen Lidia Arias (Argo Community H.S.), Karyn Conerty (Mt. Assisi Academy), Nicole Domingo (Downers Grove North H.S.), Sam Hathaway (Sycamore H.S.), Courtney Pishkur (Andrean H.S.) and Steff Rybarczyk (St. Francis de Sales H.S.). Inside, 5’11” junior Kristyn Cropper (Conant H.S.) and 5’10” freshman Jenn Bren (St. Charles East H.S.) give the Eagles some size. Junior transfer Laketa Simpson (Joliet Township H.S.) is 5’10” and displays “great athleticism,” according to Nelson, and can also play a guard spot. Junior Penny Bournas (Luther North H.S.) has battled injuries her first two years in the program, but appears healthy and ready for this season. After winning 20 games (20-8) last season for the first time in the 32-year history of basketball on the Benedictine campus – along with a second place finish in the NAC race – Nelson is eager for more. “I think that we have the potential to achieve some great things as a team,” explained Nelson. “If teams make the mistake of keying on Tamika, then we can go to other options. Yet if opponents ignore Tamika, she’s the type of player who can change the complexion of any game. “As a coach, those are nice options to have!” The Eagles will not only encounter the competition of the 13-team NAC league games, but will also make a season-opening trip to the Trinity (Tex.) Tournament.

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Benedictine University is an independent Roman Catholic institution located in Lisle, Illinois just 25 miles west of Chicago. Founded in 1887, Benedictine provides 56 undergraduate majors, 16 graduate and four doctorate programs. The Chronicle of Higher Education recently ranked Benedictine University as the seventh fastest-growing campus among private nonprofit master’s universities, and Forbes magazine named Benedictine among the top 20 percent of America’s colleges for 2011. Benedictine University’s Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) program is listed by Crain’s Chicago Business as the fourth largest in the Chicago area in 2011.