Women’s Hoops setting sights on return to postseason

By Gus Bode

After two years out of the MVC Tournament, Salukis ready for a return.

The younger players have never been to the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, and the veterans have spent two years trying to make it back.

This past season was a disappointment for the SIU women’s basketball team, not only because of the 6-20 record, but also because the team finished the season 10th out of 10 teams and missed its opportunity to play in the MVC tournament for the second straight year.


And making it there is the proof that all of the off-season work and sweat pays off.

“The conference is big,” said Jodi Heiden, who will be entering her junior year. “If you make it to the conference, you have more of a chance of moving on and to keep playing. If you don’t, you’re done, and you just sit there and think of the would haves and could haves.”

The Salukis know what they could have and should have done the past season and are working to improve.

“We need to do much better in the Conference race, hopefully well enough so we can win the conference, ” said SIU head coach Lori Opp. “It’s a pretty lofty goal with us finishing 10th, but it’s not out of our reach.

Many of the players are staying in the Carbondale area for the summer to work with a trainer and improve their skills.

“I think it’s crucial, especially during the summertime, to work on the small things and to practice your game,” Heiden said. “Summer is the time to do everything you’re lacking on and improve.”

The coaches believe part of improving for this upcoming season is making sure the players are in shape when fall rolls around.


“If the kids coming back in the fall are in shape and ready to go, it’s going to be a lot easier for us to implement what we are wanting to do opposed to trying to get people into shape,” said SIU assistant coach Alex Wellmaker. “That’s one of the problems we had last year. We just weren’t in shape at the beginning of the conditioning period.”

However, the Salukis know that conditioning and practice are only the starting points.

“Depending upon how hard they work and how much they really want to get back into the tournament is going to be key for us to have a successful year,” Wellmaker said.

And for the players who have had a taste of the tournament, they know how important the experience is.

“The players that have been there before know what it’s all about and know what it’s like, and I think that’s one reason they want to get back to it,” Heiden said. “And then there’s us players that have never been and want experience and want to know what it’s all about.”

Five new recruits are expected to make a powerful addition to the squad.

Alissa Jaehnke, a 6-foot junior transfer from McHenry County College, averaged 18.7 points per game. Stephanie Brown, a 5-11 junior transfer from Butler Community College in Kansas, averaged 10 points and eight rebounds per game.

They are joined by Amy Hayden (5-10, guard, Ft. Wayne, Ind.), Afton Gill (6-0, forward, Carterville) and Dana Pinkston (5-4, guard, Junction), who all signed earlier this year.

“Hopefully they are going to be hungry enough and not intimidated and want to try to compete for a starting spot,” Wellmaker said.

“You look at our team and you’ll see when we scrimmage each other and when we practice, the ability and everything, it is there,” Heiden said.

But talent isn’t all the team has going for them.

Two years of failing to make it to the MVC has left the players hungry for a successful season.

“They are still very hungry to win,” Opp said. “They know how to win and they can win.”

Reporter Kristina Dailing can be reached at [email protected]