Eagles prep for Drake

Ryan Nilsson

On paper, Marquette’s women’s basketball team seems very similar to its counterpart from Drake. However, no one will know for sure if that’s the case until the two teams meet at 2 p.m. Saturday in the season opener for both squads.

Much of the uncertainty is a result of Drake’s first-year coach, Amy Stephens.

“This is their brand new coach,” Marquette assistant coach Michelle Nason said. “It’s her first year, and we’re her first game so there’s no film of her style.”

While the Drake Bulldogs’ coach is a question mark for Marquette’s coaching staff, its members are familiar with the personnel Stephens has on her team.

The program has four seniors and three of them — Allison Burchill, Maureen Head and Mandy Kappel — were starters on last year’s team that went 16-12.

Sophomore point guard Linda Sayavongchanh also returns to the team after missing the second half of last season for academic reasons. In the 13 games Sayavongchanh played she averaged 11.7 points and 2.3 steals.

Those five players are expected to lead Drake after the graduation of Carla Bennet and JaNae Mosley, the Bulldogs’ top two scorers during the 2002-’03 season.

With the departure of Bennet, a first-team all-conference selection at center for four-straight years, Nason expects Drake to be a perimeter-orientated team.

That isn’t too different from Marquette, which began using a three-guard attack last season and finished with a 16-14 record.

This season the team will be led by sophomore point guard Carolyn Kieger and seniors Crystal Weaver, Katie O’Grady and Kelly Schwerman. Those four will also be expected to produce offensively and fill the scoring void created by the graduation of the team’s leading scorer in 2002-03, Rachel Klug.

Head coach Terri Mitchell has turned to freshman Christina Quaye, sophomore Sarah Shouse and junior transfer Monica Frede to replace Klug on the inside.

The three players will split the responsibility, and the playing time, in Mitchell’s center by committee approach.

The other starting position battle is between 5-foot-8 O’Grady and 6-foot-2 freshman Danielle Kamm. The size of the opposing line-up and their respective play during practice this week will determine who joins Kieger, Schwerman, and Weaver in the starting lineup for the season opener.

Player evaluation isn’t the only thing going on during practice this week.

“We’ve been working on the basics: offense and rebounding,” Weaver said. “We don’t know much about them so we have to make sure our side is up to par. They’ve been preparing us for everything.”

Adding to that, Nason said: “You have to assume everything because we don’t know (their style). So we’ve worked on press break. We worked on trap break. We worked on our offense. It’s not really a bad situation to not have film on them in the sense that we’re just focusing all on our strengths and weakness right now.”

Saturday’s game will provide the team with a better idea of what it needs to work on, information about Stephens’ coaching style and a chance to release some pent-up energy.

“We can put into action what we’ve been practicing and have it come together,” O’Grady said. “I’m so excited about starting the season.”