The last few seasons have been rough for the Lawrence University women’s basketball team, but the Vikings get a fresh start for the upcoming campaign with a new leader.
Head coach Ashley Wellman took over this past April, and she is focused on the future, just not too far into the future.
“It is a one-game-at-a-time mentality,” said Wellman, who came to Lawrence after being the assistant at Alma College since 2008. “I donâ€™t want our team focusing on a game in the future. We have to take it one game at a time and focus on these little goals in each game. If we do that, we will be surprised at our overall record at the end of the season.”
Wellman and the Vikings open the season on Nov. 16 when they host Eureka College at Alexander Gymnasium. As Lawrence jumped into practice last month, Wellman knew there was rebuilding to be done, and the Vikings have definitely rolled up their sleeves.
“Weâ€™ve been hitting it hard,” Wellman said. “Weâ€™re playing with a lot more grit and guts. We want them to fight hard for everything.
“I think itâ€™s gone very well. The players have really helped me make the transition easier. They have stepped up in terms of leadership and helped bring the two new freshmen along.Â My assistants have helped me also. They have helped me get my feet wet. Coach (Megan) Rollo has helped me determine where we are in comparison to last year.”
The Vikings return five of their top six scorers from a season ago, but Lawrence’s improvement will hinge on how well senior guards Amber Lisowe and Alex Deshler play. Lisowe led the team in scoring last season, and Deshler was second in scoring and tops in rebounding.
“We need Amber and Alex to be better on both ends of the floor,” Wellman said. “First, they need to step up a little more in their roles, not necessarily scoring, but in their leadership roles, and we need them to step up defensively.”
Lisowe averaged 13.9 points per game last season and 5.6 rebounds. She hit a team-high 43 3-pointers and led the team at 2.5 assists and 1.7 steals per game.
“Amber just constantly works her butt off when sheâ€™s on the court,” Wellman said. “On both ends of the court, she will get something done.”
Deshler was at 10.5 points and a team-best 6.6 rebounds per game last season. She tied Lisowe for the team lead at 1.7 steals per game and was second at 2.2 assists per contest.
“Alex really thrives under intensity. Alex is definitely a gamer,” Wellman said.
“One thing we have been harping on in practice is consistency,” Wellman said. “When you have a young team, itâ€™s going to be a bit of rollercoaster.”
The Vikings got an unexpected addition to the team in freshman Kanae Nishitani, who is at Lawrence as part of an exchange program with Waseda University in Japan. Nishitani fills the point guard spot, which was a patchwork last year. The Vikings didn’t have a true point guard last year, and were hurt by too many turnovers with played forced into a difficult role.
“Our point guard spot is going to be better than it was last season, but we are not going to be very deep,” Wellman said. “Kanae has been handling the point guard spot well and sheâ€™s been our most surprising player thus far.”
Senior quarterback Luke Barthelmess picked up a pair of honors this week. Barthelmess was named the Midwest Conference Offensive Player of the Week and then received honorable mention on the USA College Football national team of the week.
Barthelmess was chosen for the honor after rushing for more than 100 yards and throwing for more than 300 in Lawrenceâ€™s tough 24-21 loss to Grinnell College this past Saturday. Barthelmess, who recorded his fourth 100-yard rushing game of the season, ran 17 times for a season-high 131 yards. He also completed 32 of 50 passes for a season-high 337 yards and three touchdowns. Barthelmess now has 57 career touchdown passes, just three shy of breaking Lawrenceâ€™s career record of 59, set by All-American Jim Petran.
It was the sixth 100-yard rushing game of Barthelmessâ€™ career, and he was just one yard shy of tying his career high of 132 rushing yard, which he set in the 2012 season opener against Cornell College.
The Lawrence cross country teams ran away with seven All-Midwest Conference runners at last weekend’s MWC Championships.
Sophomore Clare Bruning led the four Lawrence women who made the all-conference team, which is the top-20 finishers at the league championships. Bruning finished sixth, freshman Amy Hutchings was ninth, sophomore Cora Williams was 19th and sophomore Liz Landes was 20th.
On the men’s side, Lawrence had three all-conference runners as Jamie Brisbois, Kyle Dockery and Jonah Laursen finished third, fourth and fifth, respectively.
The seven all-conference runners is the most for the Vikings under head coach Jason Fast and the most since 2011, when Lawrence had six (five men, one woman).
Editorâ€™s Note:Â 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 whatâ€™s ahead for the Vikings.