Something to look forward to: Saluki women’s basketball and the road to an MVC championship

By Tamar Mosby, Sports Reporter

After having short stacked roster and facing disappointment at last year’s MVC tournament, the SIU Women’s Basketball team is geared up for a new season. 

This year, they have added several new faces to their lineup and are showing signs of having a very successful season.

Last year, the Salukis went 15-15 on the season and 8-10 in Valley play finishing sixth overall in the conference.

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In last year’s postseason play, Southern lost to UNI in the quarter final by just three points.

Much of the Women’s MVC contenders, such as Drake and Missouri State, are returning nearly full rosters of players and SIU head coach Cindy Stein said this in particular will make conference play tough for her team.

“One thing I can say about the Missouri Valley Conference this year is that it is probably the best it has ever been from top to bottom,” Stein said. “Every program has gotten better. Drake, MSU, and UNI return almost everyone but a few players. It’s going to be a very intense conference schedule.”

Along with the return of several dominant players on other teams in the Valley, Southern is also returning almost every player from last year’s roster.

One of these players is two-time First Team All-MVC member, senior forward Nicole Martin. 

Martin averaged 14.8 points and 7.4 rebounds last season and is predicted to have a successful season this year as she was a pre-season All-MVC selection.

“Nicole Martin should be great for us this year,” Stein said. “She has the greatest work ethic of anyone on the team. She’s always in the gym and she was a First Team All-Conference selection last year for a reason. We rely heavily on her.”

Despite having early foul trouble and sitting out for much of the first half in Southern’s debut against its sister school, SIUE, Martin put up 15 points and was one of the game’s top scorers.

Another notable returner for SIU is junior Makenzie Silvey, who had several big games for the Salukis last season averaging 14.4 points and four rebounds.

“Makenzie Silvey has been shooting the ball really well for us this fall and has been using her length defensively,” Stein said. “She’s going to be very good for us this year defensively.”

The junior guard led the team in scoring in last Friday’s game against Edwardsville with 18 first half points and 28 in total on the night.

Along with the returners, Stein has brought in recruits from other colleges and highschool as well. Among the Salukis’ new faces is third year forward and junior college transfer Awa Keita.

“I think you’re definitely going to see some great things from Awa Keita,” Stein said. “She can change a game defensively and we’ve been trying to get tougher as a team defensively so, she helps with that.”

Adding even more depth to the Saluki bench is junior forward Gabby Walker.

Walker joined the team last year after transferring from Lindenwood University, but had to sit out due to NCAA rules. This year the forward will play in her first season for SIU.

“Gabby is a very physical player down low and she exemplifies the toughness that we tell our players to have. She’s doing a fantastic job for us,” Stein said.

In the Nov. 8 game, Walker attacked the basket for SIU and go to the line several times, not missing a single free throw. The redshirt junior finished the game as one of the five players in double-digits with 10 points.

“Our depth is a lot better this year and you’re going to see quicker substitutions,” Stein said. “We want everyone to go as hard as they can for three or four minutes and then give them a rest.”

Stein said that her main goal for the season is to see the progression of her team as the year continues.

“We want to concentrate on getting better everyday,” Stein said. “When we can do that, that’s when we’re going to succeed.”

This Friday, SIU will play its very first game in the Banterra Center against the Tennessee Tech University Golden Eagles. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m.

Sports reporter Tamar Mosby can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @mosbytamar.

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