Dragons finding their stride, identity heading into two important NSIC games
MOORHEAD—Even though the Minnesota State Moorhead women's basketball returned veteran players like Drew Sannes, Cassidy Thorson and Jacky Volkert, this year's team is different than it was a year ago.
"Even though we had a lot of similar players from last year, I think the identity of our team has completely changed," said Volkert, a 5-foot-7 junior guard who leads to team in scoring at 13.9 points per game. "We have to leave the past in the past and find our identity and not what necessarily worked last year."
The defending Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference regular-season champions are starting to hit their stride. They have won five consecutive games heading into an important conference weekend. The Dragons (11-3, 8-2 NSIC) play No. 11-ranked Augustana (14-0, 10-0) at 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 12, and Wayne State (14-4, 8-2) at 4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 13, both at Alex Nemzek Fieldhouse.
"I think everyone is slowly morphing into their roles," said Dragons sophomore forward Megan Hintz. "We still haven't played our best game of basketball yet. It's frustrating, but it's promising at the same time."
Hintz has played well during the five-game winning streak, scoring in double digits in four of those games. The 6-foot-2 Hintz scored a combined 32 points and 16 rebounds in two NSIC home victories last weekend. She's averaging 11.1 points per game, shooting 56 percent from the field through 14 games.
"I think some of it is confidence, comfort level, all those things, maybe not overthinking things too much," Dragons head coach Karla Nelson said of Hintz. "She is a good competitor."
Hintz ranks third on the team in scoring behind Volkert and Sannes, who is averaging 11.6 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. Thorson is averaging 10.5 points a contest.
The Dragons are in second place in the North Division, one game behind Northern State (13-2, 9-1) in the standings. Augustana is in first place in the South Division, two games ahead of Wayne State, which is in third place in the South. MSUM is tied for fourth place in the overall league standings behind Augustana, Winona State (13-1, 9-1) and Northern State.
"It's always a tough weekend," Hintz said. "It's big from regional play and NCAA play if we look at the big picture."
The Dragons play six of their next eight games on the road after this weekend, making these games more important if MSUM wants to stay in the hunt for the North Division and overall NSIC titles.
"First of all it's important because we have two home games. You have to win your home games in this league," Nelson said. "There is a lot of things riding on this weekend, but those same things will be riding on future games, too."
While Nelson said her team hasn't played as consistently as she would like, the Dragons have been solid in the fourth quarter to close out games during the winning streak.
"We've shown great perseverance," Nelson said. "I don't think we've played our best basketball, but we've stayed with it when the game's on the line. We've finished well."