By Brad Blume
Lady ‘Rockers taking it one at a time during DAC push
Sports Information Director
South Dakota School of Mines
RAPID CITY --- The South Dakota School of Mines women’s basketball team return to Dakota Athletic Conference action this weekend riding a four-game win streak along with a No. 13th NAIA National Top 25 ranking.
According to Lady Hardrocker head coach Barb Felderman, the national recognition is nice, but is something she doesn’t put a lot of stock in.
“Part of (SDM being ranked 13th) is because we won a couple games,” Felderman said. “The other part was Dakota State lost four in a row --- but those were against (NCAA Div. II) or very highly ranked teams.”
Five of the eight teams in the DAC were either ranked or received votes in the latest poll. Black Hills State was eighth, Dakota State 18th and Jamestown College, Mayville State and Minot State all received votes. And with just the DAC schedule left, these teams will all be playing each other---twice.
“You can fall pretty fast,” Felderman said in reference to the NAIA Top 25 poll. “Once we get into conference we are going to beat each other up so all of our records are going to be less than stellar so they will drop us again (in the poll). You are walking a tight rope. We have one of the stronger conference (in the NAIA) and the parody can be a detriment because people just look at those records.
“Rating have always frustrated me.”
The Hardrockers welcome a pair of solid conference opponents this weekend in Valley City State and Jamestown College. The Lady Vikings are first on the docket in a Friday night 5:30 p.m. matchup while the Jimmies compete Saturday afternoon in a 4 p.m. tip-off.
The Vikings come to the King Center with a 5-9 overall record (0-1 in DAC). They are ranked fifth in the conference for scoring defense (67.64), fifth in defensive field goal percentage (.40) and fifth in assists with 202 total, averaging 14.43 a game.
“They are very balanced. (Viking head coach Jill DeVries) will play 10 kids at least” Felderman said. “They don’t have a lot of height, but they are quick and athletic. We will see some pressure from them.”
Individually, Valley City is paced by freshman standout Mandy Johnson. The 5-foot-9-inch guard is the only Viking averaging over 10 points a contest. She contributes 11.14 points a game and leads the team in scoring with 156 points. Sophomore guard Jessica Tykwinski is also having a fine year as she is ranked 45th in the NAIA for steals per game (2.42).
Saturday’s contest against the Lady Jimmies (8-6)offers a better challenge for the Hardrockers with the DAC’s leading scoring on the visiting roster in 5-9 junior Giuli Varriano. The Fargo, N.D., native has five national category rankings including three Top 10’s. She is seventh in points per game (22.43), seventh in steals per game (3.64) and seventh in field goal percentage (.60) and is also 22nd in assist/turnover ratio (1.938) and 36th in total rebounds per game (8.21).
“She’s very aggressive player both offensively and defensively,” Felderman said. “She will penetrate or post up. She and (Cori) Doubek (Jimmies’ post player) like the high-low combination.”
Along with leading the league in scoring with 314 total points, Varriano is second in field goal percentage (.60), second in steals (51) and second in rebounds at 115.
Varriano is a real threat from the outside and is compliment by Doubek in the paint. The 6-2 center is second on the team in scoring, averaging 10.93 points a game. Add in freshman Janell Huber, who is fifth in the DAC in assist, averaging 3.58 a game, and the Jimmies seem to be a well rounded team that could poise a threat.
���Jamestown loves to shoot the three. They have four or five kids come in and just fire,” Felderman said. “Rebounding will be key and they will be long so everyone has to crash.”
The Hardrockers have been pretty solid all season, using the non-conference portion of the schedule to let the younger player familiarize themselves with coach Felderman’s system while the veterans hone their skills for the final stretch of games.
“I think the freshman are doing a real good job,” Felderman said. “Lorne Schuetzle and Jerika Ihnen, I know when they are on the court, will get me some rebounds. (Junior) Jessica Tsingine has some extra experience and is just a great passer.��
NAIA All American and two-time DAC MVP Melanie Vedvei looks to have her best season of her college career, leading the team in scoring with 271 points. The Lake Preston native is third for scoring in the league, averaging 19.36 points a game. She holds top honors in both steals (55) and assists (73) and fifth in field goal percentage (.50).
The addition of Jennie Malone (after volleyball season) has added another perimeter weapon for the Lady ‘Rockers, not to mention more leadership on the court. The Rapid City native has played just nine games, but is still averaging 13.22 points a game.
Sophomore Bethany Holyoak is a nice compliment in the paint as she is also averaging double figure numbers, scoring 11 points a contest.
Senior Amber Deweerd has been battling with a leg injury for a good potion of the season, but still manages to score just under 10 points a game.
As a team, SD Mines has the No. 1 scoring offensive in the conference (82.43) as well as the No. 1 offensive field goal percentage (.47) and first in assists (291) averaging 20.71 a game.
“We haven’t peaked yet and I think that’s good,” Felderman said. “Sometimes teams peak to early and when you get to playoff time the gas tank is empty.”
As the conference season progresses and the Lady ‘Rockers focus on their Dakota Athletic Conference opponents and continue to improve their overall play, coach Felderman had one simply theme to pass on to her players, “one at a time.”
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