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Women’s basketball: Team seeks fresh start

By ANDY WOLF
STAFF WRITER
There’s no such thing as too much experience.
And after being underclassmen heavy the past few years, the University of Findlay women’s basketball team is overtly ready to start winning.
“This should be the year,” UF coach Jim Wiedie said. “The last couple years you can kind of use youth as an excuse if you want to. I really don’t buy into that. I think we just underachieved last year.”
The Oilers graduated just three players in the last two seasons.
Karli Bonar, UF’s career 3-point leader, is the lone departure from last year’s 13-15 team that missed the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament for the fourth straight season.
Findlay moves into the Great Midwest Athletic Conference this season.
Four seniors and nine juniors remain, 10 of which have starting experience. Ultimately, they are still unproven when it comes to putting it all together.
Flashes of a quality team were frequent but plenty of winnable games slipped away with the theme of one disastrous quarter. It translated to a 2-11 road record and 7-13 mark in the GLIAC.
“A lot of us just get in our heads sometimes,” senior guard Haley Horstman said. “We all need confidence, especially on offense. That’s the thing that we’ve been working on in the preseason.”
Wiedie shared the same sentiment, citing their unselfishness to almost a fault.
“I think they defer too much,” Wiedie said. “They look to pass first and that’s the thing they think about instead of catching and scoring, catching and driving.”
Wiedie even altered his dribble, drive offensive system that he’s been using entire 15 years as a head coach over last Christmas break just to better fit his personnel.
Instead, the Oilers will run a four out, one in motion approach.
“We put it in on the fly,” Wiedie said. “The kids adjusted to it extremely well. I thought we were getting quality shots, better shots, more shots and our inside game opened up tremendously.”
The Oilers have also been working on playing more of an up-tempo transition game to utilize their speed, shooters and athleticism.
They are also hoping for an improved man-to-man defense as they surrendered 67.8 points per game and allowed opponents to shot 37.9 percent from 3-point range — tied for the worst mark in the country.
Offensively, Findlay returns its top four scorers from a year ago off a unit that averaged 65.3 points per game.
Horstman (5-foot-8) led the way at 9.6 ppg and has led the Oilers in minutes played the past two seasons.
Wiedie is set on keeping her in attack mode.
“Haley’s biggest drawback is Haley,” Wiedie said. “When she gets in her own head she gets down on herself, it takes away from the things she’s capable of.”
Horstman couldn’t agree more.
“I just need to look to score,” Horstman said. “There’s other girls on our team that can score, so just overall, we all need to have a scoring mind set.”
Wiedie feels, because of the other capable scorers around Horstman, that she won’t have to average 20 points per game.
Fellow senior guard Lynsey Englebrecht (9.1 ppg) has been sharp from downtown the past two seasons, 43.3 percent for her career, but someone Wiedie also says passes up good shoots too often.
Meanwhile junior center Christa Puthoff (9.4 ppg, 5.1 rebounds per game) enjoyed a breakout sophomore campaign after only averaging 3.1 ppg as a true freshman.
Her and classmate Anna Hintz (8.4 ppg) provide a dynamic, 1-2 scoring punch at the 4 and 5 positions.
“I think you’re going to see a whole new Anna Hintz, her attitude as far as being more aggressive and being more assertive,” Wiedie said.
Wiedie also cited 5-10 junior guard Jenna Stegmaier (3.4 ppg) as taking her game to the next level. She made two starts last year but largely made an impact off the bench as a rebounder (3.6 rpg).
He plans to rely heavily on junior guards Allie Thobe (5.3 ppg) and Elyssa Ellerbrock (5.7 ppg).
He sees Thobe as his “defensive Energizer Bunny” while Ellerbrock steadily improved over the course of the season after playing her first year at Gannon.
Lauren Ruth (5-10 guard) will experience that same transition year as a transfer from St. Joseph’s College (Ind.) which closed down at the end of last season. She played 28.7 minutes a contest for the Pumas, making 68 3-pointers.
Adding to the mix at guard are seniors Emily Molnar (1.0 ppg) and Kendyl Hinton (1.9 ppg). Junior forward Dana Fricke (1.8 ppg) also appeared in 22 games.
New to the roster are Sidney Kin (Carey), a 6-0 sophomore who also plays volleyball for UF and true freshman Madison Stolly (5-8 guard).
The Oilers begin their season 6 p.m. Tuesday against Alma College before playing away from Croy Gymnasium the next six contests.
They were picked to finish third in the GMAC preseason poll, receiving two first-place votes.
“I’m excited for our group because it’s like a breathe of fresh air,” Wiedie said. “We have a senior group that hasn’t been to the tournament for whatever reason it hasn’t worked out. It’s kind of like a new beginning for us.”