Fresh off back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time in school history and the program's second National Christian College Athletic Association national title, the Mount Vernon Nazarene College women's basketball team is gearing up for what should prove to be a challenging 2001-2002 season.
After posting a 20-12 record last year and winning the NCCAA National Tournament with a veteran squad that featured three senior starters, the Lady Cougars must now rely heavily on its roster full of younger players as the team prepares to tip off the new season.
"I am extremely proud of what our program has been able to accomplish the past two seasons," said MVNC head coach Steve Gregory, who enters his fourth season leading the Lady Cougars with a 56-42 overall mark the past three years. "Two consecutive 20-win seasons and an NCCAA national championship are great accomplishments, but we cannot be satisfied with that or complacency will set in. We need to build off our past successes as we continue to build toward the future."
"After graduating three starters from a year ago, question marks abound as far as who will be ready to step in and be counted on to be a solid contributor," Gregory added. "Our success will be dependent upon a lot of young players that we have in our program."
One certainty in the MVNC lineup will be senior guard/forward Angie Trainer (5-foot-10), who averaged 16.3 points and 5.2 rebounds per game to go along with 103 assists and 87 steals. She set a new single-season school record with 506 points last year as she was named to the NCCAA All-American First Team and the American Mideast Conference First Team, and selected as the NCCAA National Tournament Most Valuable Player. She is also within striking distance of the Lady Cougars' career scoring mark as she needs 504 points to overtake former MVNC standout Tara Seiter (1,718 points).
Joining Trainer in the starting lineup will be junior guard Jenni Davis (5-foot-6), who will move from the point guard spot to the shooting guard position this year. Davis, who along with Trainer will be one of the team's co-captains, led the team with 108 assists last season while averaging 10.9 points per game. She also drilled 60 three-pointers and shot 77 percent from the free throw line.
Sophomores Monica Mohler, Susan Adams, Amy Stubbs, Lisa Beaver, and Carrie Eckstein will all be counted on to step up their production from a year ago as they each figure into the playing equation. Mohler, a 5-foot-6 guard, averaged 3.4 points and handed out 94 assists during her outstanding rookie campaign. After backing Davis up at the point guard position last year, Mohler will likely step into the starting role there this season.
Adams, a 5-foot-9 guard/forward, came on strong at the end of the season and was a big part in the Lady Cougars' postseason run as she averaged 7.9 points and 3.7 rebounds per game off the bench. For her efforts, she was named to the AMC All-Freshmen Team. Her versatility will allow Gregory to use her at the guard or forward position, but she will likely start at a forward position.
Stubbs (5-foot-10) and Beaver (6-foot) will both compete for the starting center position. Beaver, who averaged 3.0 points and 2.0 rebounds last year, has been recovering from an injured knee and would likely get the starting knod if healthy. Stubbs, who averaged 2.5 points and 2.2 rebounds last season, has shown marked improvement in her perimeter shooting from a year ago. She will also see action at the forward position.
Eckstein (5-foot-10), who averaged 5.0 points and 3.3 rebounds in 30 games at Ohio Dominican College last year before transferring to MVNC, will see action at both the forward and center positions. She can hit the open perimeter jumper, and she has improved her low post moves. Her athletic ability will be a plus for the squad.
Two other sophomores that have shown promise are guards Lisa Weller and Carolyn Purdy. Weller (5-foot-5) is a strong perimeter shooter , who shot 38 percent from beyond the arc last year, while Purdy (5-foot-5) will play both the point and shooting guard positions. Purdy is also a strong marksman from three-point land.
Freshmen Lindsay Reed, Amy Myers, and Melanie Gosnell will all figure into the playing equation for the Lady Cougars. Reed (5-foot-5) and Myers (5-foot-5) can each play the point and shooting guard positions, while Gosnell (6-foot-3) will be utilized down low in the post.
Seniors Angie Svagerko (5-foot-6) and Trisha Smith (5-foot-1), both guards, help round out the roster that includes freshman guard Jenny Slack (5-foot-7) and freshman post Britney Beavers (5-foot-10). These players will all contribute to the depth that the Lady Cougars will have this season.
MVNC will face one of the toughest schedules in the program's history as the team will play three nationally-ranked teams in its first four games. The Lady Cougars will open the season at the MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.) University Tournament against the host Lady Pioneers. Then, the team will take on either Southern Nazarene (Okla.) University, ranked second in the NAIA Division I preseason poll, or Azusa Pacific (Calif.) University, ranked 17th in the NAIA Division I poll.
After taking a week off, MVNC will travel to the University of Rio Grande for the Bevo Francis Classic. The Lady Cougars will take on Cumberland (Ky.) College, ranked 13th in the NAIA Division I poll, in the first round before squaring off against the host Redwomen, ranked 20th in the NAIA Division II preseason poll.
Following those two tournaments, MVNC will jump right into conference play in the rugged AMC. Shawnee State University should once again prove to be the team to beat as the six-time defending conference champions are the top-ranked team in the NAIA Division II poll. In addition to Rio Grande, three other schools - Malone College, Saint Vincent (Pa.) College, and Seton Hill (Pa.) College - each received votes in the NAIA Division II poll.
"We have four difficult games to open the season that will test us early and show us what we are made of," said Gregory. "As this team continues to grow and mature, we will find success. We will definitely be a better team a month from now because of the transition from a veteran team to a young team this season."