A great blend of experience and youth has head coach Mickey Haller excited about the 2008-09 season. A look at the roster shows only one senior in guard Emily Nelson (shooting guard, Mankato, Minn./Loyola), however, add to that a trio of juniors in Brianna Radtke (point guard, Winsted, Minn./Lester Prairie), Julia Schultz (small forward, Marshall, Minn./Marshall), and Katie Layman (post, Hudson, Wis./Hudson) and mix that with a maturing trio of sophomores in Molly Mathiowetz (forward, Sleepy Eye, Minn./St. Mary’s), Kirsten Prunty (shooting guard, New Ulm, Minn./Cathedral), and Brittany Holm (post, Benson, Minn.), and you have a solid core of seven players to build around. Haller will need to replace All-American Jess Vadnais and post Vicky Peterson, however she is confident that this team has the work ethic and team chemistry to develop into a group that can help the Gusties qualify for a spot in the MIAC Playoffs for the ninth straight year.
Coach Haller feels that this team has the ability to defend very well and then push the ball up the floor to score in transition. It is an athletic group that can run the floor and she hopes that the defense can generate some offense by forcing turnovers, which will allow the guards to get out and score some easy baskets. Haller mentioned that this group needs to improve its defensive rebounding as well as scoring in the half-court, however she has been very pleased with the effort of the team in these areas in pre-season practices and is hopeful that it will turn into improved play during the season.
On the perimeter, the Gusties will be led by junior point guard Bri Radtke, senior shooting guard Emily Nelson, and junior small forward Julia Schultz. This trio has played together in virtually every game for the past two seasons and is accustomed to playing against quality opponents virtually every night in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Radtke, an honorable mention all-conference honoree last season, is a true point guard who will be the court leader for this squad. Coach Haller feels Radtke is ready to step up and accept more of a scoring role this season with the graduation of all-time leading scorer Jess Vadnais. Nelson will be the team’s top outside scoring threat as she made 35-of-102 three-point attempts (34.3 percent), while averaging 8.7 points per game. The veteran guard is also a tenacious defensive player that will team with Radtke and Schultz to put a lot of pressure on opposing perimeter players. Schultz is the consummate team player who does all of the little things well, which makes the team better. She has the ability to score, as she averaged 5.5 ppg last year, but her passing, rebounding, and ability to set screens is what makes her valuable to the team according to Haller. Sophomore guard Kirsten Prunty is expected to provide quality depth after adjusting to the college game last year. Prunty is a smart player who is a good outside shooter with the ability to penetrate and pass if necessary. She averaged nine minutes a game and played in all 28 games last season. Others expected to contribute on the perimeter include junior Amber Steffenhagen (Lake City, Minn.) and newcomers Molly Geske (Mendota Heights, Minn./Cretin-Derham Hall), Ava Perry (Wabasha, Minn./Wabasha-Kellogg), Colleen Ruane (Edina, Minn./Benilde-St. Margaret’s), and Megan Gaard (Edina, Minn./Edina). Steffenhagen appears ready to step in and provide depth at the point guard spot behind Radtke. The four first year players have shown great promise in the pre-season practices. Geske, an honorable mention All-State honoree at Cretin-Derham Hall, will give the Gusties another legitimate long-range shooter, and force teams to guard closely on the perimeter allowing more space inside for the Gustie post players to maneuver in the paint. Perry, Ruane, and Gaard are three athletic guards who can defend well, which will give Coach Haller some depth to harass opposing perimeter players.
In the paint, Gustavus will be led by junior post Katie Layman, and sophomores Molly Mathiowetz, and Britanny Holm. Layman is a back the basket scorer who gives the Gusties a legitimate low-post presence. She is also a good passer who is capable of getting the ball out to the perimeter for the three-point shot when teams are collapsing inside. Layman, a returning starter, averaged 8.8 points and 3.7 rebounds per game last season, while shooting 46.1 percent from the field and 77.8 percent from the free throw line. A nice compliment to Layman inside is Mathiowetz, who is more of a face to the basket post, who can hit the 15-foot jumper and penetrate with the dribble. Mathiowetz is also a strong rebounder as she led the team on the boards last season with an average of 5.8 rebounds per game. The third player in the Gusties post rotation is Holm. The tallest player on the squad at 6-1, Holm is also a back to the basket player. She improved a great deal during her first collegiate season last year and Coach Haller expects Holm to become a more confident scorer and more physical presence in the post this season. Sophomore Nadvia Davis (Minneapolis, Minn./North) is a physical player who has a nose for the ball and she will provide depth for Coach Haller down low.
Gustavus will be asking some of its veteran players to assume new roles for the 2008-09 season, especially at the point and in the post where Bri Radtke and Katie Layman will be asked to score more than they did a year ago. In addition, the junior class will be asked to assume the leadership roles, while the sophomore class will be asked to move from supporting roles to starring roles. It may take some time for these changes to take effect, however Coach Haller is confident that this group will be playing its best basketball at the end of the season and she is planning on this squad making another strong run in the MIAC Playoffs.