WESTERN ILLINOIS FIGHTING LEATHERNECKS
Overall Record: 14-16
Summit League Record (Finish): 7-9 (T5th)
Postseason: Lost in Summit Quarterfinals
2013-14 QUICK GLANCE
Head Coach (Season): JD Gravina (3rd)
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 6/8
Starters Returning/Lost: 3/2
Women's Basketball Page | Schedule | Roster
"I think the league, at least since I've been here, is much deeper than it has been the previous two years. I feel like the culture of the program is going in the direction we want it to go. I think offensively, we've made some strides in going with our philosophy and now we really need to make some improvements on the defensive end." – Head coach JD Gravina
F Ashley Luke (10.6 ppg, 7.2 rpg, All-Summit League second team); G Michelle Maher (10.1 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.4 apg); G Rebecca Henricson (4.6 ppg, 4.1 apg, 2.0 spg)
SUMMIT LEAGUE PRESEASON POLL
All-League Selections: Ashley Luke (1st)
After significant improvements in each of head coach JD Gravina's first two seasons, the Western Illinois women's basketball team will look to jump into the upper echelon of Summit League programs in 2013-14.
The past three years, the Leathernecks have jumped from eight wins in 2010-11 before Gravina's arrival, to 12 in his first season, to 14 in 2012-13.
"I'm really excited. I feel like the culture and philosophy of this team fit my style and where we wanted to be as a coaching staff when we were hired here," Gravina said. "I think we have a really versatile offensive team and hopefully we're going to make some important defensive improvements."
A strong blend of returners and starters has Gravina excited for what's in store in the upcoming season.
Western Illinois will be captained by its lone senior, point guard Rebecca Henricson. She finished the 2012-13 season ranked 15th nationally with a 2.2 assist-to-turnover ratio, racking up 4.1 assists per game as she ran the offense.
"We're still young with only one senior, but we've got our two big sophomores who played a lot last year, and our two transfers have experience playing at other programs. I feel like we're a lot more of a veteran team even though we're still young, and we'll still be together for a couple years," Gravina added.
The Leathernecks also had the Summit League 'Newcomer of the Year' for the second straight season. Ashley Luke emerged as a playmaker as a redshirt-freshman, averaging 10.6 and 7.2 points per contest en route to Second Team All-Summit League honors.
Another freshman, Michelle Maher, also scored in double figures. She averaged 10.1 points per game, while also totaling 3.2 boards and 2.4 assists on average.
A pair of transfers will be eligible for the 2013-14 season after sitting out last season to meet transfer requirements.
Junior Tori Niemann transferred from Missouri after playing 34 games in her two seasons as a Tiger. She played for four seasons under current associate head coach Seth Minter at Canton R-V High School, and is expected to contribute from the wing this season.
Fellow junior Marley Hall played in 62 games in two seasons at Illinois State, including 31 starts her sophomore year. She averaged 11.8 points and 5.8 rebounds per game in her second year for the Redbirds.
Additionally, the Leathernecks welcome in a pair of freshmen: Mallory Boyle was picked by College Sports Madness as the conference's preseason 'Freshman of the Year,' while Michelle Farrow was a high school All-Area honoree, and played AAU ball with fellow leathernecks Ashley Luke and Faith Lois (redshirting 2013-14 after transferring from Nevada).
Also returning for Western Illinois are a trio of sharpshooters. Paige Harmon, Sophie Reichelt and Liz Skotowski all shot better than 38 percent from three-point range off the bench in their freshmen campaigns.
Another transfer, sophomore Ciara Marlow, will redshirt this season due to transfer requirements.
WIU opens its regular season in Corpus Christi, Texas at the Emerald Beach Islanders Classic on Nov. 8 and 9. The Leathernecks will also play road games at Oklahoma, Missouri, Milwaukee, Kansas City and Eastern Illinois, and play host to Florida Atlantic, Loyola-Chicago, Saint Louis, Southeast Missouri State and SIU-Edwardsville.
Those games lead into the always-tough Summit League schedule, concluding with the Summit League Tournament in Sioux Falls, S.D. from March 8-11.
"Our schedule this year should be a fun schedule; we play at Mizzou, at Oklahoma, which will be good experiences for our players. We have a lot of good home games with teams coming into Western Hall. When we get into the conference schedule, I think it's going to be a dogfight," Gravina concluded. "I think this is the deepest our conference has been since I've been here. It's the type of conference where every night you have a chance to win and you have a chance to lose. That makes it really fun, and it also makes it a grind for our players and our coaching staff."