Head coach Katie Nelson is preparing for her head coaching debut Saturday when she leads the MSOE women's basketball team into action Nov. 19 vs. Lake Forest and she has to be pretty excited with what she has to work with in her first head job.
Nelson returns three starters from a team that won 18 games last season and has posted 38 wins over the last two seasons. She takes over a program that is enjoying its best run in its history and with the tools to keep that success going.
Headlining the list of returners has to be senior Holly Denfeld, the 2016 Josten's Trophy recipient, an Honorable Mention All-American and the defending NACC Offensive Player of the Year. She averaged a league-best 19.7 points per game last season, three points more than any other player, while shooting a school-record 58.4 percent from the field. She pulled down 9.7 rebounds per game last season and posted 12 double-doubles.
Already one of the most prolific players in program history, she will look to cap her career on a high note. Denfeld needs 471 points to become the team's all-time leading scorer and 224 rebounds to be the second player to 1,000 rebounds.
Senior Margaret Pugh has been a starter for the Raiders since she stepped on campus alongside Denfeld and has become the glue for this lineup. She contributed 6.1 points to go with 3.0 rebounds per game last season. She's also become a key defender for the team, regularly coming up with stops on the defensive end at key times.
Another senior, Lizzy Hilby, started 15 games last season averaged 7.5 points per game in 22 appearances. She was hampered a bit by injury, but was spelled by a pair of talented rookies that also return. Hilby was second on the team with 2.3 assists per game, splitting time between the point and shooting guard positions.
Brooke Scott and Jamie Spanbauer gained valuable experience last season, seeing pivotal minutes for MSOE. The addition of the duo to the squad gave the team a bevy of capable three-point shooters, alongside Pugh and Hilby. Scott led the team with 25 three-pointers made and a 42.4 shooting percentage from beyond the arc.
Scott came on strong late, starting nine of the last 10 games of the season. She averaged 11.0 points per game over her last eight games of the season and finished the season with a stat line of 6.5 points and 2.3 rebounds in 20.9 minutes per game.
Spanbauer started five times and contributed 4.9 points per game, showing flashes as a shooter and slasher to the basket.
Sophomore Kiana Jeremiah is another second-year player that is looking to take a step forward after getting her first season under her belt. She appeared in 19 games and showed glimpses of what she can do both on and off the ball. She knocked down 33.3 percent of her three-point tries and averaged 2.3 points and just under one assist per game, while posting a 1.5 assist-to-turnover ratio (17/11).
While Pugh's length and instincts will take her into the post regularly, Nelson will look to junior Nicole Kahnk and sophomore Samantha Brooker for added depth in the front court. Kahnk brings valuable experience to the role, entering her third season with the team, while Brooker's athleticism will be an asset.
Senior Maria Gerstbrein and sophomores Rachel Ruona and Myles Grandstaff also return in the back court. Gerstbrein brings invaluable experience and has demonstrated her ability to contribute in a reserve role over her career. Ruona played in 22 games in her first season and will look to take the leap into a more regular role. Grandstaff cut her teeth with 10 games as a rookie and will also look to build on that experience to force her way into more meaningful minutes.
Rounding out the returners for the Raiders will be junior Shaylan Reardon. The former First-Team All-NACC performer missed last season with an injury and will also be sidelined again in 2016-17 with a second, non-related injury. She'll continue to bring her valuable experience in a leadership role as a captain while she battles her way back to the floor for next season.
Nelson also adds three rookies to the squad in Kayla Barreto, Sammie Wiskirchen and Tamara Elzen. Barreto will vie for playing time at point guard, while Elzen features as a shooting guard. Meanwhile, Wiskirchen will get time in the post.