During the 2011-12 season, Linfield relied on a lethal scoring threat in first team all-NWC selection and conference scoring leader (21.4 ppg) Gretchen Owens, as well as the steady leadership of senior guard Brynna Fuller.
This season, the first thing that stands out on the roster is that there are just three upperclassmen on the team, one of whom – Nichole Thoens – is a transfer. Therefore, in the eyes of third-year head coach Robin Potera-Haskins, the ‘Cats must build off of their youth.
“We have a young team, and our mindset is to have a winning record and pull off a lot of upsets,” said Potera-Haskins.
The task for Linfield in 2012-13 will be no easy one, as two of their NWC rivals are ranked in the preseason NCAA Division III Top 25. George Fox is currently ranked second in the nation, while Lewis & Clark holds a ranking of 11th in the same coaches poll.
“We want to surprise some people, and we have the ability to do that,” said Potera-Haskins, adding, “We respect everybody but fear no one.”
Linfield turns to its lone senior, Nicole Barton, as well as junior Kaely Maltman, a two-year starter, to provide guidance and leadership to an otherwise youthful squad.
Katelyn Henson and Alex Christensen are two other key starters returning to the lineup in 2012-13, and both can help to fill the void left by Owens and Fuller.
“I don’t think we are going to focus on just one person,” Potera-Haskins commented when asked about the team’s offensive threats. “This year we will be extremely hard to defend, and anybody could lead the team in scoring.”
By spreading the scoring burden amongst a plethora of players this season, Linfield hopes to better its seventh place-NWC mark of 60 points per game last year.
Having played in only eight games as a freshman last season, center Tyra Barawis got just a taste of the court last season.
“It’ll be nice to have (Barawis) back, as she has the potential to be a good scorer,” Potera-Haskins said.
Similarly, Taylor Soloman is another sophomore who missed last year due to injury. “During scrimmages she has led the team in scoring,” said Potera-Haskins, adding, “She’s a nice athletic little guard.”
A core of freshmen, including Tasha Rowland, Catie Mets, Alisen Hinton and McMinnville native Jessica McMillan have all shown promise in scrimmages thus far.
“We struggled in three-point shooting and rebounding, which are two major areas you can’t afford to be weak in,” Potera-Haskins replied when asked about where the team will likely improve over last season.
Another key goal for the ‘Cats is to cut back on turnovers; Linfield averaged 17.6 per game a year ago.
“We were right with a lot of the top NWC teams last season, but there were frustrating spurts where we let teams back into games,” Potera-Haskins said.
The solution lies in the team’s ability to move the ball and rely on different players.
“We didn’t have the depth we have this year, and we won’t be as one-dimensional as we were last season,” Potera-Haskins said. “We are much faster and stronger defensively, and this will create a lot more fast breaks.”
Linfield opens its season Nov. 17, taking on Occidental. That kicks off a five-game swing for the ‘Cats, who play four more teams from the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Complex before returning to McMinnville for their Nov. 27 NWC opener against Willamette.