With fall in full swing, it is only a few short weeks before basketball season gets started once again. With that said, it is time for the season preview for the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks Women’s Basketball team. The Hawks are looking to build off of a nice turnaround season and climb the Summit Standings.
Quick Review of Last Season
After a two win season in 2020-21, you wouldn’t blame any UND fans for feeling that it was going to be a tough road back to success. With Mallory Bernhard getting the full time position after spending 2020-21 season as the interim, her 2nd season showed a little more success.
The team finished .500 in the overall (15-15) and in the conference (9-9). Kacie Borowicz, with a healthy season, showed that she was one of the better guards in the Summit and one of the best free throw shooters in the country. Olivia Lane proved her mettle down low averaing nearly a double-double. Melissa Leet put together her best season, being a defensive presence down low and also not being afraid to step out and hit a 3 on the offensive end. The team showed its present, ratting off a 6 game winning streak during the conference season and showed that it was ready to take a big jump.
There still was some room for improvement. UND went 0-6 against the other Dakota schools and unforunately they finished on a 5 game losing streak and lost in the first round of the Summit League tournament. You could tell that the team was starting to perhaps hit a wall towards the end of the season.
Now with the upcoming season, UND was picked 4th in the Summit preseason polls and ready to take the next step back towards the top of the Summit.
Head Coach: Mallory Bernhard (3rd season, overall record 17-34, 11-24 Summit)
Assistant Coaches: John Motherwell (6th season), Adam Marso (4th season), Nkwane Young (3rd season), and Alex Kladis (1st season)
Only change to the staff was the addition of Alex Kladis as the DOBO (Director of Basketball Operations).
Makayla Wallace (Guard, Graduated), Melissa Leet (Center, Graduated), Carlee Sieben (Guard, Tranferred to Concordia-Moorhead), Jodi Anderson (Guard), Aly VanLoo (Center), Erika Lane (Guard, Tranferred to MN-Crookston), Olivia Lane (Forward, transferred to Grand Canyon.)
The big losses for UND was in their frontcourt as the graduation of Melissa Leet and the transfer Olivia Lane to Grand Canyon. These two started the majority of the games at the Power Forward and Center positions. Leet put together her best season on both ends of the floor and ended up with all-defensive Summit League honors. Lane provided a great secondary scoring punch and was an excellent rebounder, nearly averaging a double-double in conference play and was in the top 5 in the conference in rebounding.
Mikayla Aumer (Guard, Cambridge, MN), Amanda Roach (Guard, Brighton, MI), Tara Bieniewicz (Guard, Trine University), Rakiyah Beal (Guard, Detroit, MI), Nakiyah Hurst (Guard, Milwaukee, WI), Darcy Jardine (Forward, Cheyenne WY).
The good news is that UND is bringing in a talented class. UND dipped into the transfer pool to land Bieniewicz, a D3 transfer who was brought in to do one thing: shoot the ball. At Trine, she shot the 3 ball at a 40.5% clip, which will be a much needed addition to help stretch the floor.
The rest of the group are incoming freshman, with several expected to play big roles in the season. Two of these women are Rakiyah Beal and Nakiyah Hurst. Both of these players come in highly regarded as 4 star recruits from Michigan and Wisconsin respectively. Hurst averaged 20.0 ppg and 11.6 prg in Milwaukee and shot the ball very well from the floor (56%) and from 3 (37%). Definitely someone who can plug into the starting lineup and can have a major impact. Beal appears to be a tough noised wing player that can really bring it on the defensive end and is explosive on the offensive side, someone that will really help UND on both ends. These two could be on the short list for Freshman POY and will help determine how far UND can climb the standings.
The other 3 recruits could also play an important role this season. Darcy Jardine will provide important minutes at the 5 spot of the lineup and looks to be the potential replacement for Leet. Amanda Roach gives UND another tough ballhander with a winner mentality. Mikayla Aumer brings another shooter and scorer to UND, averging around 24 ppg at Cambrige-Isanti.
5th Year Players: Clair Orth (Guard), Joli Daninger (Guard), Juliet Gordon (Guard)
UND was fortunate enough to have both Orth and Daninger come back for their 5th seasons as they provided some great leadership from the guard positions. Orth raised her game up another level, averaging 10.4 ppg and shooting around 45% from the field, both career highs. She provided a solid present in the backcourt for UND. With her back for her 5th year, it will be interesting to see what she can do with potentially more spacing.
Dainger was a solid player off of the bench and was the team’s 3rd leading rebounder with 5.3 rebounds per game. She was also someone who come either come off the bench or could start in a pinch and be more than servicable. With another year of experience, she will provide great depth and another decent rebounder that UND will need.
Gordon returns off of a lower body injury and will look to regain her form from the COVID year. In 2020-21, she aveaged 7 ppg and 4 rpg. She defintely showed some flashes during that COVID season and could be look at playing some time down low. Was very solid at the free throw line. If she can get back to that level of play off of injury, it will provide UND with another versitle player and depth piece.
Seniors: Maggie Manson (Guard), Kacie Borowicz (Guard), Sammiyah Hoskin (Guard/Forward)
A fully healthy Kacie Borowicz tore through the Summit League. She put up a great stat line of 19.4 ppg, 5 rpg, and 4.4 asp. She shot the ball at 41% from the field and 38% from 3. Her best trait, she was one of the nation’s best from the free throw line, including a rediciulous 20-20 from the line against Montana State. She had 12 20+ point performances.
What can she do next? Can she take the next step to allow her to average 20+ ppg? She also needs to cut down on the turnovers. An improved supporting cast can also help take some of the pressure off. She is not only on the preseason 1st team for the Summit League, but depending on team and individiual results, could she make a run for Summit League POY? We shall see
Maggie Manson put together a solid season putting up almost 8 ppg from the guard spot. She provided a 3 point option for UND and she improved her numbers from the previous season (32%), however it still didn’t match up to her freshman year numbers. Still, like Orth and Borowicz, she set new career high in several categories. If Manson can bring her shooting back above her freshman levels (35%), it will provide another option for UND to stretch and space the floor.
Sammiyah Hoskin was another reserve player that had her moments last year. What I liked about her was that she brought great energy on the floor no matter how many minutes that she got. When she did have her moments, they were in key parts of the key that helped the team. It didn’t need to be on the scoring column. Against Kansas City at home, she only scored 2 points, but grabbed 9 boards in 26 minutes of play. In 9 minutes against Oral Roberts at home, she didn’t score, but grabbed 5 rebounds.
With an offseason of work, it will be interesting to see what she can do in Year 2.
Junior: DJ Davis (Guard).
DJ had a solid first year as a reserve guard, perfoming a servicable job when Borowicz needed a breather at the point. She was a pest on the defensive side of the basketball and provided some spurts on the offensive side of the basketball (had a career high 13 points against St. Thomas). She is someone who will benefit from a full offseason of work and should come back even better in 22-23.
Sophomore: Allie McCarthy (Guard). The 6′ Canadian Guard played sparing last year, appearing in 16 games, most of which was when the game was not in doubt. However, when given a few minutes against Kansas City, she flashed scoring 5 points in 6 minutes. Be interesting to see what she is able to do in Year 2 and what she can bring to the table.
Redshirt Freshman: Miranda VanderWal (Center). The 6’7 Canadian redshirted last year but will be expected to contribute at the 5 spot and provide a posing presence down low.
Key Dates on the Schedule:
November 11th: Wyoming
There isn’t any big highlight games against D1 non-conference opponent but this one has to be the biggest one. Wyoming was picked 5th in the MWC, and a win against them would be a solid boost to UND and the Summit League.
November 18th and 20th @ Montana and @ Montana State
UND hits the state of Montana to tangle with two of the better teams in the BSC. This was always a road trip that has vexxed UND when they were in the BSC. A good trip out west could bode wonders.
November 25th: @ Grand Canyon
Hey! UND happened to play GCU this year, wonder who else is down there.
December 31st and January 28th: North Dakota State
UND hasn’t beaten NDSU in quite a while, it is time to change this. They had opportunites last year but couldn’t cash them in. The Bison will be battling for a top 3 spot this year. First matchup is in Fargo while the rematch will be in Grand Forks.
January 7th and February 2nd: South Dakota State
The defending WNIT champions are LOADED and are ranked in the preseason. This is a team that can make a deep run this year in the NCAAs. These are going to be fun matchups to see if UND has closed the gap at all against SDSU. If you want to watch some great women’s basketball, circle these games on your calendar. First game is in Brookings, rematch is in Grand Forks.
January 5th and February 4th: South Dakota
The other Summit League power, USD, is in a bit of a reset after Pritzuweit left to go to West Virginia. However, they still will be a strong team that UND needs to test themselves against. They got close a couple of years ago but UND has to find a way to get back USD to really have people take notice. First game is down in Verm, rematch is in Grand Forks.
Questions for the Season:
- Who steps into the secondary scoring role behind Borowicz?
- Does UND figure out the frontcourt?
- Does the 3 point percentage improve?
- Are the freshman ready to make a major splash?
Write that Down:
1. The Defense takes another step forward
2. 3 Point Shooting will improve
3. UND will finally beat NDSU
4. Hurst or Beal will win Freshman POY
The freshman come in as advertised and UND goes off to a 9-1 start in non-conference play. Kacie Borowicz brings her game to another level with a more balanced attack. Orth and Daninger bring strong veteran leadership, which DJ Davis provides a steady backup from the bench. Bieniewicz shows off their shooting prowless to allow the floor to be stretched. UND finally ends the drought against NDSU, beating them twice. Even better? They finally solve the USD puzzle, beating them in Grand Forks. The defense looks impressive with VanderWal, Gordon, and Jardine playing well in the 5 spot. They win 22 regular season games and finish 2nd in the conference behind SDSU. The tournament goes well as they make the finals before tapping out to SDSU in the championship. Borowicz wins Summit League POY, Hurst captures Freshman POY. They make it into the WNIT and win a game before ending the season at 25-8. Coach Bernhard gets a contract extension, along with the news that Borowicz is coming back to use her COVID year. With another good class coming in, expecations will be sky high to finally go after the giant in 23-24.
The inexpereince in the middle bites them to begin the season as they start non-conference play at 5-5. Hurst and Beal have some growing pains and the same problem plagues UND: No real secondary scoring option outside of Borowicz. Speaking of Borowicz, she plays alright but begins to be nagged again with injuries. The Dakota schools continue to be a thorn in UNDs side as they sweep them once again. They finish 6th in the conference and go 8-10 in the conference. They get bounced in the first round again and finish 13-16 overall. This would be dissapointing, but the bigger dissapoinments start coming. First, NDSU makes it to the Summit League finals and nearly take down SDSU. Then, Kacie Borowicz decides to use her COVID year elsewhere. Beal and Hurst also depart. With a lot of replace and a year left on her contract, it would be a messy situation for the UND Women’s Basketball program.
What I think will happen:
The best case scenario seems a bit high but it goes to how high UNDs ceiling really is on the women’s side. While I don’t think Kacie wins POY, she will make a first team All-Summit team once again. She will get some help from Hurst, who I think will be the one who wins freshman POY and becomes that secondary scoring options. UND will get just enough out of their frontcourt to squeeze out a 19-9 regular season and a 12-6 conference record, good enough for 3rd place, and they win a game in the Summit league tournament to get to an even 20. It will be enough to get to a postseason tournament, where they win 1 game there and finish the year with a 21-11 record.
A step forward which will lead to a contract extension for Berhard.
Oh… and Kacie comes back for one last dance.