Women's Basketball Season Preview Here:
November 17, 2005
The St. Thomas women's basketball team will celebrate its past and its future simultaneously in 2005-06.
It's the Tommies' 25th season of home games in Schoenecker Arena, which opened for hoops in November 1981. The UST future is linked to its past as it welcomes back a new head coach in Hall of Fame player Ruth Opatz Sinn.
With 11 freshmen on its 17-player roster, St. Thomas starts its season with two games in the Nov. 18-19 Salem (Mass.) State tournament. On Friday, the Toms face Montclair State. With a win, UST likely would face Salem State, a 21-win team last season, in the Saturday championship.
UST opens its home season Sunday, Nov. 27 vs. UW-River Falls. The Tommies return home three days later to play defending conference champ Carleton, then have five of their next six games on the road.
"We're excited about the season," Sinn said. "We have a blend of experience and leadership to go with our new players, and the youth and excitement those 11 freshmen bring. We're excited about the opportunity to play some games and see exactly where we're at in relation to other teams."
Sinn was hired as the Tommies' head coach in May 2005. Her 21-year high-school coaching career includes the last 16 seasons as head coach at Apple Valley High School. Her Apple Valley teams played in three state tournaments, most recently in 2004, won eight section championships, and compiled a 290-170 record.
Sinn played on the Tommies' first two MIAC women's basketball championship teams. In her era from 1980-84, she helped build an 80-36 won-loss record. As a senior she played on St. Thomas' first NCAA women's basketball playoff team and led the squad in steals and assists. She still ranks in UST's top-12 in career steals, assists and blocked shots. She was among the first seven females inducted into UST's Athletic Hall of Fame, back in 1992.
Sinn replaced Tricia Dornisch, who built a 113-50 record in her six years. Last season, the Tommies' 11-14 finish included three wins in their last four games to push them into the six-team conference playoffs. They closed their season with a 12-point loss at St. Ben's, a team that went on to win the conference playoff crown and two NCAA playoff games.
"We're trying to focus on the big picture," Sinn said of her preseason emphasis. "One theme we've stressed a lot is 'Tommie Pride"' as our identity. Our players have invested into that and are giving that all-out effort. Our hope is that anyone who comes to watch us play will see that we're hard working, intense, respectful and classy young ladies who compete with a huge team purpose and focus."
Several players graduated from last year's 11-14 team, including three-year starting guard Vel Williams (620 points, 248 assists), plus Jessie Hays and Amy Kittelson. With the transition to a new coach, two other three-year letterwinners decided not to return to the squad. That leaves a roster with two seniors, two juniors and two sophomores joined by 11 freshmen. The newcomers include two high school valedictorians and several versatile athletes from strong basketball programs in Minnesota and Iowa.
Leading the returners is senior All-MIAC center Erica Opdahl (Career: 829 points, 483 rebounds). She's on pace to finish in the top six in UST career scoring and rebounding. Opdahl had six double-doubles for points and rebounds in 2004-05 and scored in double figures in 20 games while averaging 14.8 ppg and 7.3 rpg.
Juniors Melissa Gotchnik (8 ppg, 4 rpg in 25 starts) and Melissa Keiser (4.4 ppg, 10 starts) will look to bring some scoring punch from the backcourt.
--St. Thomas Women's Basketball
2004-05 W-L Record: 11-14
Conference: 9-11, 6th of 11
--Letterwinners returning/lost: 6/11