Depth. If Clarke University Head Women's Basketball Coach Don Adams can keep everyone healthy, the fourth-year Crusader skipper says his squad's strength will come from the number of players he can put on the floor. Clarke didn't enjoy that luxury a year ago.
Clarke, which finished 6-22 overall and 3-9 in Midwest Collegiate Conference battles last winter, starts anew this weekend, facing Calumet College of St. Joseph in Whiting, Ind., before playing an exhibition contest Sunday in West Lafayette, Ind., against the Purdue Boilermakers.
"This will be the deepest team I have had in my fours year here at Clarke, if we can keep them healthy," said Adams. "Our team is kind of split 50/50 in the sense of returning players vs. freshman. We will need the freshman to step up and contribute for us to have a successful season."
Two-time MCC honorable mention performer Anna Hahn (6-1, Jr., F) of New Berlin, Wis., and 2013 MCC Newcomer of the Year Breland Prochaska (5-7, So., G) of Fennimore, Wis., will once again be key to Crusader fortunes.
"Anna is a great post player that has led the team the past two years," said Adams. "And Breland played a ton of minutes last year and we expect her to do that again for us this year."
Hahn averaged 10.7 points per game last year and led the Crusaders on the boards, retrieving 6.8 errant shots per game. She shot 52.4 percent from the field and a school-record 88.6 percent from the charity stripe.
Prochaska played strong as a freshman, starting all 28 games and averaging 9.6 points and three rebounds per game. She paced the Crusaders in both assists (90) and steals (56), and tallied a career-high 23 points against AIB on January 19.
Clarke will also benefit from the return of 6-1 sophomore forward Katelyn Hoppman, of Hazel Green, Wisconsin. Hoppman started five of Clarke's first six contests last year before incurring a season-ending injury.
"Katelyn will be a great player for us as she comes back from her injury and will be a force in the middle for us along with Anna," said Adams.
Hoppman, a prep all-stater at Southwestern High School, averaged 6.3 points and 4.2 rebounds per game through six games as a freshman.
Adams is excited about his new crop of freshmen and their potential.
"Kelsey Ernst (5-11, Fr., G/F, Bellevue, Iowa) and Ashley Werner (6-0, Fr., F, Madison, Wis.)will be great additions to our post play," said Adams. "They have had a great preseason and have been doing well in our scrimmages and will play a lot for us this season."
"Molly Kleppin (5-6, Fr., G, Morton Grove, Ill.) and Megan Jensen (5-5, Fr., G, Waterford, Wis.) have been playing well in practice and scrimmages and will see a lot of playing this season as well," added Adams.
"Great things will be expected from all of our freshmen as we look to get deep into our bench."
Clarke will play another challenging schedule this year that includes seven teams that made the NAIA or NCAA tournaments.
Adams said that Sunday's exhibition game with Purdue will "be a great experience for our team to play against that type of team in that kind of environment."
"And our conference season will be tough as usual," said Adams. "Grand View, St Ambrose and William Penn will be the preseason favorites."
Friday's season opener at Calumet College of St. Joseph will begin with a 6 p.m. tip-off.