Lawrence University women’s basketball coach Tara Carr could exchange her whistle for a hard hat because she is trying to build the Vikings into something special.

As Carr embarks on her second season with the Vikings, she wants to improve the team’s record and bring this group of young women together.

“We have five new freshmen and team unity is No. 1,” Carr said. “Everything we do is talking about team.”

The Vikings return seven players, including four starters from a season ago when Lawrence won just one game. Lawrence does have a group of talented newcomers, led by local prep standout Katie Schumacher.

“We want to improve, but we have a lot of new faces and that takes some time,” Carr said.

The Vikings also had four players participating in a fall sport, and senior Cathy Kaye is studying in Italy and will not return to the team until after Thanksgiving.

“Despite that, the relationships and the bonding have already happened. For me, that’s what it’s about,” Carr said. “Watching it, it’s been a great experience. It’s hard to explain, but this year’s team feels different.

“When they feel good, they play good,” Carr added with a smile. “It’s important for me as a coach to create an environment that stays positive and remains focused on the team.”

The Vikings will build their attack around junior guards Alex Deshler and Amber Lisowe, who missed her entire freshman season due to injury. Lisowe led the team in scoring last season at 12.0 points per game, and Deshler also averaged in double figures at 10.2 points per game. Deshler also is the top returning rebounder after averaging 6.9 boards per game last season.

“Amber and Alex really need to play well for the team to play well. They need to contribute double figures in scoring and rebounding numbers. They must impact the game for us to be successful,” Carr said.

“Alex’s basketball IQ is just amazing. Her internal competitive edge is like no other. That kid wants to win and she is clutch. I think Amber is more of the glue of the team. She does that on and off the court.”

Junior guard Jessica Robbins also returns, and Carr looks to Robbins’ quickness to give the Vikings a spark.

“That kid is so quick,” Carr said of Robbins. “Her defensive skill set is amazing. We’ve challenged her to be more of a consistent offensive threat. We’re hoping her defensive ability will lead to more on the offensive end.”

Kaye averaged 7.1 points per game last season and is joined by sophomore Kassidy Rinehart, a former star at Hortonville who started 17 games as a freshman.

Schumacher heads the list of five newcomers who bring size (all are forwards and average 5-foot-10) and a clean slate to the program.

“The nice thing is when you get new players, they don’t know about the past. They know what they’ve read, and we talk about where we’re headed and where we’ve been,” said Carr, who added the newcomers know what is expected of them.

“The expectation is you need to come in an contribute right now. That is something we have emphasized since day one.”

Rowland honored

Junior defensive specialist Kathleen Rowland has been named to the all-Midwest Conference volleyball team.

Rowland, who was chosen for the second consecutive season, was selected for the second team. Rowland led the team with 475 digs and averaged 5.52 per set. She also chipped in with 13 service aces on the season.

Record falls

Quarterback Luke Barthelmess is Lawrence’s career passing yards leader after breaking All-American Jim Petran’s record last Saturday. Barthelmess, the son of head football coach Mike Barthelmess, now has 5,738 yards in two seasons as the starter. Petran’s record of 5,431 had stood since 1979.

Mazur tops two grand

Standout wide receiver Tyler Mazur is just the sixth receiver to post 2,000 career receiving yards after passing the mark last Saturday at Knox. Mazur posted his third consecutive 100-yard receiving game of the season last Saturday and now has 2,031 yards for his career. He is just 31 yards from passing All-American Pat Schwanke for fifth place on the career list.

Game of the Week

Lawrence and Ripon renew the oldest college football rivalry in the state on Saturday when the Vikings host the Red Hawks in the season finale at the Banta Bowl. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. with the Doehling-Heselton Memorial Trophy at stake. This is the 112th meeting between the teams, which makes it the 14th-longest rivalry in NCAA Division III.

Editor’s Note: Inside LU Athletics is a notes package written by Lawrence University Director of Athletic Media Relations Joe Vanden Acker. It will feature teams and individual players, recap weekly awards or highlights and take a look at what’s ahead for the Vikings.