After two straight appearances at the NJCAA national tournament, the Western Nebraska Community College women’s basketball team will open the season Friday with the hope of earning a third straight trip to nationals.
This year’s team will be a little different in the fact only two players return from last year’s team that went 29-5 overall before losing in the Region IX championship game to Casper. WNCC earned a berth at nationals with an at-large big, falling to Tallahassee Community College 97-85, who went on to win the national title.
Third-year head coach Chad Gibney says this team has potential this season.
“This is a very unique group. We have a very deep roster that can do multiple things which allows us to be flexible and allows us to play different styles,” Gibney said. “Obviously, we want to stay with what we have done and be successful but this season I think we can play multiple ways and take advantage of our depth.”
This unique group will get things going early when they head to Liberal, Kansas, for a tournament on Friday and Saturday. The Cougars open the season Friday night against No. 10 Seward County Community College before taking on Garden City Community College on Saturday.
Gibney said things are going well to open the season after four dates of pre-season scrimmages.
“Things have been going well,” he said. “The team has bonded. They continue to get better as you can see in practice and they are starting to play with each other as time goes along.”
WNCC will be young this season with just Merle Wiehl and Eva Langton back from last season. Wiehl, a 6-1 wing player from Germany, will be the main threat this season after averaging 16.9 points and 5.7 rebounds a game a year ago. Wiehl was a NJCAA second team all-American as a freshman.
Langton, a 6-1 wing from New Zealand, was a key performer off the bench and will be key this season.
That leaves nine newcomers on the team, two of which are transfers. The two transfers are Andrijana Reljic, a 6-3 forward from Bosnia, and Allysah Booth, a 5-5 guard from Chicago. Booth played at Lincoln College last year while Reljic played at Northwest Florida State, a team that played at the NJCAA national tournament last season.
The seven freshmen include Tishara Morehouse, a 5-3 guard from Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Kolby Underwood, a 6-0 guard from Chicago; Anyssia Gibbs, a 5-11 guard from Apple Valley, California; R’Manie Pulling, a 5-7 guard from Denver; Yuliyana Valcheva, a 6-1 forward from Bulgaria; Taylor Joplin, a 6-1 guard from Garden Plain, Kansas; and Yaidelis Torres, a 6-1 forward from Puerto Rico.
What Gibney likes about this team is its versatility where they can do different things with their height and quickness. With just 11 players, Gibney said there is depth.
“That is the thing that makes our team so valuable is we have an entire roster that can come in and do something that helps us,” he said. “That will be extremely valuable when we start to wear teams down throughout the game.”
After this weekend, WNCC will hit the road Nov. 9 and 10 when they head to Council Bluffs, Iowa, to face No. 19 Iowa Western Community College and Cloud County Community College. WNCC will open the home season Nov. 14 against Northwest College.
WNCC’s goal this year is to win the Region IX title like they did two years ago. The winner of the South sub-region will host the regional tournament. Gibney said the goal is to do just that.
“You want to win the region and make a third straight trip to the national tournament,” he said. “Hopefully, then we will have an opportunity to advance down there at nationals.”