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TMC women's basketball preview: Getting it together

Close-knit group wants to return to the postseason

Posted: November 21, 2010 11:00 p.m.
Updated: November 22, 2010 4:55 a.m.
(From left) Guard Lena Rivera, forward Theresa Brown and guard Erica Inge will be key components for the Mustangs as they try to return to the NAIA Tournament. (From left) Guard Lena Rivera, forward Theresa Brown and guard Erica Inge will be key components for the Mustangs as they try to return to the NAIA Tournament.
(From left) Guard Lena Rivera, forward Theresa Brown and guard Erica Inge will be key components for the Mustangs as they try to return to the NAIA Tournament.

Closeness was never the problem.

The Master’s College women’s basketball team has always been a close-knit group.

Many of the players are friends and many hang out together outside of basketball.

The difference this year is how the team is taking advantage.

“We have a camaraderie that we haven’t had here since I’ve been head coach,” said TMC head coach Dan Waldeck. “We have a togetherness that we haven’t had on the court. We’ve always had that off the court before, but it’s nice to see some of that translated in games.”

The 2010-11 season will be Waldeck’s third as head coach, but he spent 16 as an assistant before that.

In that time, he saw the Mustangs make seven NAIA National Tournament appearances, win three NAIA Regional Championships and earn a spot in the NAIA Final Four in 2006.

But the last two seasons ended without postseason berths.

Waldeck believes this is the year to end the drought.

And that’s despite graduating forwards Jenna Reed and Brittany Henderson, who collectively averaged 26.5 points and 13.3 rebounds per game.

“It’s kind of interesting because I wouldn’t say they’re the most talented team we’ve had,” Waldeck said of this year’s squad. “But there are just teams that have it. And I think this team kind of has that. They remind me of my Final Four team. They weren’t the most talented team either, but they had it.”

The Mustangs will try to find “it” again this year by honing a fast-paced, high-energy offense which they employed a season ago for the first time.

“I think the main reason it’s a lot better this year than it was last year is because last year was our first year running it, but it was also coach’s first year teaching it,” senior point guard Erica Inge said of the offense.

Thus far, TMC hasn’t had trouble scoring points, winning 90-62 against Bethany and 81-67 against Corban College in its first two games.

On Tuesday, the true test will begin when the Mustangs open play in the competitive Golden State Athletic Conference against San Diego Christian at 5:30 p.m. in El Cajon.

It’s a conference that boasts four teams ranked in the NAIA preseason Top 25 poll, including No. 2 Azusa Pacific, No. 5 Vanguard, No. 13 Biola and No. 17 Pt. Loma Nazarene.

“We’ve got to take baby steps to get there,” said junior power forward Theresa Brown. “We’ve got to do our thing in conference and just go from there.”

Brown, who transferred to the team this year from Lang Community College in Oregon, could play an important role in helping the Mustangs get through the conference gauntlet.

Standing at 6-feet tall, she gives the team a forceful post presence that it hasn’t had in recent years.

As a result, TMC is making adjustments to her playing style.

“She’s just phenomenal in the post,” Inge said of Brown. “She’s pretty much un-guardable.”

The addition of Brown adds balance to the play of both Inge and returning sophomore guard Lena Rivera.

Inge is the team’s top returning scorer, having averaged 11.5 points per game last year, and Rivera followed closely at 9.6 per game.

Juniors Morgan Schwegler and Ella Joines will also bring experience to the table in running TMC’s offense.

With only two seniors on the team, some of the freshmen could see more time on the court as well.

Freshman guard Zoe Scott has emerged as the standout of the new recruits with her outside shooting ability.

“Zoe is awesome because she’s one of those people that did above and beyond what she needed to do to prepare for playing with us,” Inge said.

Fellow guards Lindsey Levanen and Saugus grad Kaylynn Martin round out the freshman class.

It isn’t the new arrivals that Waldeck is most excited about, however. The improvement of returning players may be the answer to erasing the two-year absence from the NAIA Tournament.

“Our team’s goal this year is really to get back into the national tournament, but as hungry as I am as a coach, I don’t have to go out there and play the games,” Waldeck said.

Maybe not, but ones that do play the games have plenty to be excited about this season.

“We all get along so well and we just know what one another wants to do out there and what one another’s strengths are,” Brown said.


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