I happen to have seen the Pipers this past year--meaning, I wanted to see the surprising Lady Scots of Macalester, and by the time I managed to get on over to the Leonard Center, Hamline happened to be the opponent. Macalester won pretty easily 74-48 and, to be honest, I didn't pay a whole lot of attention to the Pipers. I only learned later on that Hamline had lost 3 starters--Stephanie Robinson, Rochelle Sather and Kristin Sczublewski--to injuries during the course of the season. All 3 started the Pipers' first game. Then Robinson came off the bench for 3 games until returning to the starting lineup as a result of a season-ending injury to Sather. Robinson went down in the very next game, however, and Sczublewski joined her on the sidelines another 6 games later.
Sather was the only senior on that roster, so assuming everybody comes back healthy, well, again, Hamline is going to have a lot of talent. In fact, its front court could dominate a lot of people. But while there's a lot of guards, you can only put 2 or 3 of them on the court at one time, and so Hamline's guard play remains a question mark.
Center--The post is 6-foot-1 Mary Wilkowski, 1st team all-MIAC and honorable mention D3 all-America last year as a junior. Wilkowski scored 17 points per game and added 9 boards, while becoming just the 9th Piper woman to score 1,000 points in her career.
Wilkowski's back-up is Tromesa May, also 6-1, from St. Louis Park who, as a freshman, has already won an MIAC 6th Player of the Year award after only joining the team in January. She contributed 9 points and 7 boards to the cause. A key question for Coach Stockwell will be whether she can get Wilkowski and May on the court together. May doesn't look like somebody who can play away from the basket, however, and do you want to move your all-American out of her comfort zone? Questions, questions.
Big Forward--At the big forward is Jessica Englund, 6-2, from St. Francis, who started 14 games last year after the injury bug hit, contributing 5 points and 5.5 boards. She will be a junior next year.
Small Forward--Of course, Hamline can go small, as it did at the start last year with Sather and Sczublewski, both nominally guards. If so, this time the best options look like Sczublewski and Robinson. Sczublewski, who will be a senior this coming season, started the first 11 games last year, contributing 9 points, 4 assists and 3 boards. She shot a mediocre 36 percent from the field, however. Robinson, who will be a junior, on the other hand, shot a stellar 56 percent, scoring 9 points, but with 3.5 turnovers.
Point Guard--Both point guards are back and both earned all-conference honors: Nikki Klink, senior-to-be from Hibbing, was honorable mention and her back-up, Kara Poirer, sophomore-to-be from Eau Claire, WI, made the all-1st years. Klink scored 9.5 points with 4 boards, 4 assists and a team-high 2 steals. Poirer scored 6 points per game. The 2 had 4 turnovers per game between them, not bad, but they shot 38 and 31 percent, respectively. Clearly, the objective is to get them better shots and fewer next year.
Shooting Guard--Senior-to-be Jackie Kelly, from Blaine, was the #2 scorer at 11 points per game, and added 3 boards and 3 assists. She made more than half of the Pipers' 3s at a stellar 43 percent clip (64-for-149). Somehow, however, she managed to make just 23-of-70 2s, or 33 percent.
The primary issue will be shooting. When Wilkowski, May or Kelly (from beyond the arc) are not shooting the ball, the percentages are pretty bad. Other than Kelly, the Pipers shot barely more than 25 percent from 3 point-land. Redistributing the shots, generally, and finding another 3 point shooter will be among Stockwell's primary challenges.
Then there's turnovers. No one player seems to have an excessive number, it's just that everybody has their fair share and so the Pipers ended up with 10 more turnovers than their opponents. That also represents an inability to create the turnover and some easy baskets. Opponents shot just 40 percent overall, but 36 percent on 3s, and scored 68.5 points. Stockwell will surely be looking to cut that back by a few points a game.
Which brings us back to the new coach. Stockwell's resume is pretty impressive, consisting primarily of 7 years as Paul Fessler's head assistant coach at Concordia (St. Paul). During Stockwell's tenure, the Bears went to D2 post-season play 6 straight years, making it to the Sweet 16 in 2005. They won the Northern Sun regular season championship 3 times and the post-season title 3 times. Previous to that, she coached at North St. Paul. As head coach from 1999-2002, the Polars went 45-29 and played in the 2000 girls state high school tournament. She was section 6AAAA coach of the year in 2000. As an assistant there for the 4 years previous, she helped the Polars to the 1998 and 1999 state tournaments as well.
Again, one of Stockwell's primary issues will be dealing with high expectations, something Hamline has rarely had. Hamline has never won an MIAC women's basketball title, and over the past 6 years the Pipers won 72 while losing 77 under coach Melissa Kruse-Young. But with everybody, including a major talent such as Wilkowski, back from an injury-marred 13-12 season, Hamline should probably be rated right behind perennial powers St. Thomas and St. Ben's in the pre-season poll. No pressure here.