What a year for women’s ball

After the Mavericks Women’s Basketball team was tragically taken down by the University of Minnesota, Duluth Bulldogs, yet again, there are a lot of positives to come from the season despite the loss and also a lot to look forward to in MSU’s future. 

Head Coach Emilee Thiesse was able to put together one of Mankato’s best years yet. Their 26-5 season closed the record books as arguably the second-best season in the school’s history with an overall win percentage of 86.4%. The only season better in MSU’s history was the 2008-09 season when the Mavericks went 32-2 and won the NCAA Division II tournament. 

This season opened up with a 10-game win streak, while the regular season closed on a nine-game win streak. This streak carried them to the NSIC Championship game. This was MSU’s second time in school history in the championship game, but they could not find the win they needed as Duluth knocked them out and claimed the title. 

This then brought the Mavs to the second round of the NCAA playoffs for the fourth time in MSU history, where once again, they were stopped by UMD’s dominance. The last time they made it to the second round was in Thiesse’s inaugural season back in 2013. Since then, the Mavs have made it to the Round of 64 twice, but were stopped both times and are still left looking to take home gold. 

“It was a great year, not just because of the wins and losses, but just because I think our program took a big step forward,” said Thiesse. “Our leadership has grown immensely this year. We just had a lot of fun this season and are just really excited about the future of Maverick women’s basketball.” 

MSU found success this season in various different areas. The Mavs were a dynamic team that focused strictly on defense which set their offense in motion to score at will. Their mantra throughout the season was that their defense was their backbone and it worked. 

The Mavericks led the NSIC in overall turnovers, points and assists. They ran a seemingly perfected full-court press which left opponents scrambling for answers on how to break through it. This helped the Mavericks average 25.7 turnovers per game as they forced 798 overall turnovers throughout the season. This meant offense and a lot of it. MSU took home the scoring title as they averaged 83.7 points per game while also averaging 16 assists. 

“We made a statement on both sides of  basketball and I think we’re excited to just continue to build off that next season,” said Thiesse.

These efforts were led by junior guard Joey Batt. Batt ended the season being named the NSIC Defensive Player of the Year all while leading the Mavericks in points per game. She averaged 16.3 points throughout the season while leading the NSIC in steals per game and ranked fifth among all Division II players in overall steals. In turn, this helped her be named to All-NSIC First Team for the third time and to the D2CCA All-Central Region Second Team.

“This season my main goal was to step into a leadership position,” said Batt. “I wanted to put this team on my back and take them with me and excel as much as possible.” 

The team not only strives to be their best on the court but also off of it. Their grades are immaculate and they have amazing team chemistry as they often describe themselves as sisters or family.

Ten players were named to the NSIC Winter All-Academic Team while Batt, Destinee Bursch, Emily Herzberg and Molly Ihle were named to College Sports Communications Academic All-District Team.

When they aren’t studying or practicing ball, they spend their days together as a team. 

“We are all each other’s best friends,” said Batt. “I feel like we spend too much time together, honestly. We never spend days apart and even when we have the opportunity to go home most of us still stay in Mankato in the summer.” 

For the most part, this group of girls will be the same going into next year. Forward Carah Drees will be the only senior leaving the team and the Mavs will have three incoming freshmen in the 2023-24 season. 

As more players step into leadership positions, the Maverick basketball program will continue to hone in on their skills and be a force to be reckoned with in the following season. 

Players are already looking ahead to summer to work on their game and focus on the dynamic of the team. Thiesse won’t be able to practice with the team as the NCAA prohibits coaches in the summer months, but this leaves the window open for the team’s chemistry to build more and for players to step up. Watch for next year as the team has its eyes set on another strong season. 

Header Photo: MSU Women’s Basketball team concluded with a 26-5 overall season as well as making an appearance at the NCAA Central Region Semifinals. Junior guard, Joey Batt, scored the highest individual points of the season at 505. (Dylan Engel/The Reporter)

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