The MSUM men’s and women’s basketball teams prepare to make a run this season, and both teams return a solid core to build on with young Dragons.
For the boys’ squad, MSUM head coach Chad Walthall is happy with the performance of his team thus far and believes his team has the potential to have an even better year than last season.
“I think the key component to our season will be how our veterans and our new guys interact with each other,” Walthall said. “Our goal is to have a better year than last year. We had a good season but not a great season, and you always want to have a great season.”
Redshirt junior, and the lone captain, Jordan Riewer, will lead the Dragons this season. Riewer is ready to lead and has the right attitude for the role.
“Jordan is a great player and a great person. That’s why he’s our lone captain. We’re going to rely on his leadership skills just as much as his playing,” Walthall said. “He knows the system as far as the program’s expectations and the coaching staff’s expectations. He’s at that point where he has to make that jump from a different guy to a leadership guy.”
Leading the group of newcomers is Moorhead native Aaron Lien. The young Moorhead High School alumnus will be thrown into the fire right away to help the Dragons and his coaches believe he’s ready physically and mentally.
“We were really excited to get him to commit to our program. He is an extremely hard worker, arguably the hardest worker in our program. His basketball IQ is very high, so he picks up on stuff very fast for a freshman,” Walthall said.
On the women’s side, MSUM coach Karla Nelson is excited for the season’s start and has a great group of seniors to lead. Seniors Megan Strese, Morgan Zabel and Haley Thomforde are all heading into their third year as starters.
“Those three can be good leaders and get us going on the right foot. We’re still relatively young and not as mature as where we need to be, but those three will help us there,” Nelson said.
MSUM has some new faces on the roster and will likely help the Dragons move up from their projected seventh in the conference ranking.
“I would say Drew Sannes will see plenty of playing time. Natalie Van Wyhe will play, and we’re not sure about our other girls,” Nelson said.
The Dragons look to their frontcourt as a major strength with their dominance on the boards. Once the defense improves, they could make some noise in the conference.
“We like to hang our hat on our rebounding and we want to be able to say defense is one of our strengths, but we have some work to do there,” Nelson said.
Nelson and her squad are anxious for the season’s start and hope to surprise some teams in the conference.
“I’m just looking for another exciting year of basketball,” Nelson said.
Both teams opened their respective seasons with wins against Mayville State on Saturday.
The men take to the court at 7 p.m. on Saturday when they play host to Northland College.
The women play at 5 p.m. on Friday against University of Wisconsin – Parkside, St. Paul.
Both the men’s and women’s teams open up conference play when they host Northern State on Nov. 30 at Alex Nemzek Fieldhouse.
BY TURNER BLAUFUSS