By Brad Blume
Sports Information Director
South Dakota School of Mines
RAPID CITY --- Looking at the Dakota Athletic Conference before the start of the season, the South Dakota School of Mines women’s basketball team looked pretty suspect. Rostering seven freshmen and zero seniors, it looked to be a steep hill to climb for the Lady Hardrockers.
But as the conference schedule is slated to begin Wednesday in Spearfish, the Hardrockers enter the matchup with Black Hills State riding the momentum of a six-game win streak and an abundance of confidence to boot.
And given the fact that SDM is taking on its biggest rival and a very complete ball club in the Black Hills State Lady Yellow Jackets, now is a great time to reach the summit for the Hardrockers. Add in the fact that Wednesday’s bout kicks off the conference schedule for both teams and the game becomes that much more important.
“Both teams know it is an important game,” said Hardrocker head coach Barb Felderman. “And the rivalry --- I have said many times, I have never been to a boring BH vs. Mines game.”
After defeating two ranked NAIA preseason opponents along with two other hard fought victories, the Lady Hardrockers hung a 78-point defeat on Johnson and Wales this past weekend, defeating the Wildcats, 108-30 and then took out NCAA Division III opponent Colorado College, 79-65, which improved their record to 7-4 for the year.
“They were games where we needed to work on our rotation and get some flow,” Felderman said. “We had nice output from several of the kids this last weekend.”
Junior standout Melanie Vedvei had an outstanding weekend. The Lake Preston native and reigning MVP of the DAC scored 15 points against JWU and added 33 in the game against Colorado College for 48 total on the weekend. She connected on 17-31 attempts and was 13-17 from the foul line over the two-game stint. That was also good enough to earn her DAC Player of the Week honors.
Leah Sundby (freshman from Williston) had a stellar road trip, scoring a game-high 31 points against Johnson Wales while teammate Bethany Holyoak (freshman from Moorcroft, Wyo.) recorded a double-double in the Colorado College outing, putting up 11 points and bringing down 12 rebounds.
“We’ve had several of them step up this weekend and it just gives them more confidence. The good news is that it is a different person each week,” Felderman said of her players.
The Yellow Jackets have an identical preseason schedule as SDM as well as the same 7-4 record, but where the Hardrockers have won their last six games, BHSU is riding a five-game win streak.
BHSU has a pretty potent lineup themselves with a lot of returning talent. They are well balanced, with senior Brittney Klipfel and junior Lacey Haugian on the inside to go along with sharp shooters Jaime Bentley (senior) and Alexis Krull (sophomore) on the perimeter.
“They are a very good and strong team. They return a lot of experienced players,” Felderman said. “They have great height, have some experienced rebounders on the inside as well as a couple deadly three-point shooters. They are very athletic and just a tough team.” The Yellow Jackets were picked to finish second in the DAC this season and it is a prediction that holds true for Felderman.
“They are one of the top teams in the conference in my estimation,” the coach said of BHSU.
The game plan for BHSU should be pretty straight forward in Felderman’s eyes.
“They are going to high-low us with their height advantage and their very strong post players,” she said. “Then if you give too much there, BHSU will hit you with their outside shooters. They will take what we give them.”
And defensively, the key for BHSU will be to shutdown Vedvei.
“They will pressure Melanie from start to finish. They will try to double team her and hold her down from start to finish,” Felderman added.
But even if the Jackets predictably take that strategy, they will have to be very weary of the plenty of other developing young weapons that SD Mines possess. Freshmen Sundby, Holyoak, Madi Hotovec, Karmen Powell and Rachel O’Hara have all been in double figures at different times throughout the year. Also the Jackets better not take lightly the skills of the other juniors on the roster in Amber DeWeerd and Jennie Malone who have also made their presence known this year.
In any case it’s should confirm Feldman’s statement and prove to be another exciting BHSU vs. SDM matchup. The game is slated for a 5:30 p.m. tip-off.
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