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With five starters and two key reserves returning from last season’s Midwest Conference runner-up, the Monmouth College women’s basketball team is ready to make the final drive to take its first MWC regular season title and the second tournament title in program history.
“There’s no doubt having everyone back and bringing a few new kids into the mix has been a big help,” said Kyle Wilson, now in his fifth year guiding the Scots. “Everyone is on the same page. They understand how hard you have to work. We were just a couple possessions short of winning the whole thing a year ago and that’s been our motivation. I don’t want to use the term ‘unfinished business,’ but they realize how close we were a year ago.”
Wilson returns three all-conference
performers from last season: seniors Becca Gallis (Kernville, Calif./Kernville) and Carley Turnbull (Mesa Ariz./Mesa), and sophomore Shayne Smith (Hume, Ill./Shiloh). Gallis led the trio, averaging 16.3 points per game, just ahead of Turnbull (16.2). Smith also proved to be a prolific scorer pumping in over 14 points per game, including six 20-point games and one near-record 36-point night.
“Our focus early has been on the defensive end, but it’s good to have three players offensively inclined,” admitted Wilson. “We had games last year when we just weren’t good enough defensively. We’re confident with the work we’re doing on the offensive end.”
Running the offense is senior guard Yvonne Ornelas (Santa Ana, Calif./Orangewood Academy). The playmaker dished out 93 assists
in 27 games last season and will get help off the bench from sophomore transfer Josie Morgan (Washington, Ill./Washington).
“We can actually have two different looks depending on our point guard,” reported Wilson. “Josie has given us a little different look offensively. Those two will be a great complement for what we’re trying to do.”
Look for sophomore Jordan Kintigh (Goshen, Ind./Fairfield) to patrol the paint. The 6-footer pulled down nearly six rebounds a game last year as she moved into a starting role late in the season.
“Jordan took advantage of her opportunity when an injury opened the door,” said Wilson. “She’s an extremely hard worker and has made herself into a post player to respect. We’re not asking her to score a bunch. She just needs to defend
and rebound, then put in the occasional put-back.”
Wilson also returns a pair of key sophomore bench players – three-point threat Kaitlyn Osmulski (Peoria, Ill./Norte Dame) and Tarae Warner (Burlington, Iowa/Burlington) – to go with a pair of 6-foot freshmen, Dani Hagens (Aledo, Ill./Mercer County) and Zoie Wall (Peoria, Ill./Limestone.)
“Kaitlyn will be an important piece this year with her continued development,” predicted Wilson. “She shot the ball extremely well last season and gained more confidence as the season wore on. Tarae grew quite a bit and got more comfortable in her role. Dani and Zoie are learning the college game, but we expect them to contribute before the season is out.”
With all the cylinders firing last season, the Scots surprised nearly everyone
through the first month of the season. Their nine-game win streak to open the season resulted in a 19-8 campaign and a 10-win improvement from the season prior.
“We made a jump last year,” said Wilson as his team entered last season ranked deep in the bottom half of the Midwest Conference. “We won’t sneak up on anyone this year. That became apparent last year when we lost at Grinnell and they stormed the court like they had won a conference title. That’s when our kids realized we’re now the hunted and not the hunters.”
It’s the last go ’round for Gallis, Ornelas and Turnbull, a fact not lost on Wilson.
“Those three really bought in to what we were trying to accomplish,” said Wilson. “We didn’t have the success early in their careers, but they’ve paid their dues
and are getting some rewards. They have a chip on their shoulders to finish off their playing days on a high note. They’ve done a lot to change our program and get it to the level we’re at today.”
Perhaps the only thing left for Wilson’s seniors is the elusive conference title. Monmouth has never won a league crown, although the Scots won the MWC Tournament and advanced to the NCAA Regionals in 2012.
“It’s all going to hinge on our defense,” claimed Wilson after his team averaged nearly 70 points a game a season ago. “We’ve shown we can score, but that only takes a team so far. If we want to take the next step, we’ve got to defend better. It’s as simple as that.”
***Report Courtesy of Monmouth College***