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The Antelope

The Antelope

Women’s basketball defends MIAA championship in 2021-22

KOSUKE YOSHII / ANTELOPE STAFF Head coach Carrie Eighmey and assistant coach Devin Eighmey conduct a team huddle.

The UNK women’s basketball team comes into this year with much of the talent returning from last year’s MIAA championship-winning team. The Lopers return four of five starters as well as leading scorer Elisa Backes, who averaged 13.4 points per game. 

After getting back to normal with workouts this offseason the Lopers are ready to get the season started.

“It’s been a good preseason,” said coach Carrie Eighmey. “We have a lot of returners so there’s a lot of continuity. A lot of people know what’s going on. It’s been a lot more refining things and fine-tuning things than teaching from scratch.”

The team’s only two seniors last year were starter Kelsey Sanger and Shelby Megyeri. The team will look for someone to replace Sanger’s role as top perimeter defender.

“I don’t think she’s one of those kids that you’re just gonna have one player that replaces her exactly because she was unique,” Eighmey said. “I think we have several players that are defensively showing a lot of growth, progress and ability to guard the types of players Kelsey guarded.”

UNK returns point guard Haley Simental who enters her seventh year as a collegiate athlete. After spending four seasons at the University of Denver, Simental is using the extra eligibility she’s gained over the years due to injuries and COVID-19 as she enters her third season at UNK. 

“It’s been awesome to be able to have a point guard where you’re not having to worry all the time about whether or not you can handle the pressure or get the ball where it needs to go,” Eighmey said. “We’ve been pretty spoiled to be able to have her for an extra year.”

Other returners who will make an impact are last year’s starters, juniors Maegan Holt, Klaire Kirsch and Brooke Carlson. Other returners will be Backes, sophomore Trinity Law, redshirt freshman Meg Burns and redshirt sophomore Shiloh McCool. 

Although there are a lot of returners, there will still be some new players including redshirt sophomore Sarah Schmitt who transferred from UNO to play point guard for the Lopers this season. Regis University transfer Grace O’Neill will also be rotating in at the forward position. 

The Lopers opened at third in the MIAA preseason coaches poll behind Fort Hays State and Central Missouri.

“A lot of times people maybe on’t realize how good the MIAA is,” Eighmey said. We believe there’s probably six or eight teams at any given time throughout the year could be (nationally) ranked. It’s a highly competitive conference.”

The Lopers open their season on Friday against Minnesota-Crookston. UNK’s first home game will be on Wednesday, Nov. 17 against Peru State. 

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