The University of Dubuque’s third-place finish in the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference women’s basketball standings last season was its best in school history.
Despite that historic finish, the team was chosen sixth out of eight schools in a preseason poll of IIAC coaches this season.
“I think we’re better than that,” coach Mark Noll said. “But it’s up to us to prove that.”
Thanks to Woodstock graduate Mollie Whiting, a senior guard, the Spartans have offered some proof of how good they can be so far this season.
The team is off to its best start in school history at 10-1 with Whiting ranking third in the league in scoring at 17.3 points a game.
“We’re playing as a team,” Whiting said. “We’ve all come together.”
The Spartans begin their conference season at 2 p.m. today at Wartburg.
Along with Whiting leading the team in scoring and assists (26), the Spartans have been aided by having 10 players that contributed at least 13 minutes a game.
“We definitely have a deeper bench than most teams that we play,” Whiting said of the team, which is on a school-record nine-game winning streak. “You can tell when [other teams] are getting tired.”
The team’s bench contributions have come from several local sources, including Woodstock grad Christina Velasquez, a sophomore forward who averages 4.5 points and 3.4 rebounds. Freshman guards Molly Richardson (Marengo) and Haylee Nutter (Woodstock North) contribute 2.4 and 1.3 points a game, respectively.
Whiting, who ranks in the top 10 in program history with more than 1,200 points, has expanded her skills by working on her defense and fitness, according to Noll.
“I really didn’t like defense as much,” Whiting said.
Now, she ranks eighth in the conference with 1.82 steals a game.
Whiting ranks fourth in the IIAC in field-goal percentage while playing a team-high 24.9 minutes a game.
“She’s a deadly scorer,” Noll said. “She’s very explosive as a player. She fits exactly the type of player we look for in our style.”
Whiting hopes to continue her career by playing professionally next season overseas. But if she doesn’t leave the country, her future could begin in Dubuque.
Noll said he has offered Whiting a job as his graduate assistant coach.
“I’d love to go play overseas,” said Whiting, who hopes to coach on the college level as a career. “But the [graduate assistant] job would be a great opportunity, and it could help lead me to a future job.”
Elston part of record-setting relay: Lewis University’s men’s 200-yard medley relay team, which includes Jacobs grad Alex Elston, broke a 7-year-old school record Dec. 1 in the Carthage College Classic.
With Elston swimming the second leg, the D-II Flyers won in 1:33.76. The time surpassed the previous school best by nearly 2 seconds. The previous record was set Feb. 11, 2004.
Lewis scored 1,536 points to win the six-team Carthage meet. Elston, a freshman, also helped his team win the 200 freestyle relay and the 400 medley relay.
Wismer tackles honor: Richmond-Burton grad Kyle Wismer was named first-team All-Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in football this season.
Wismer, a junior linebacker at D-III Wisconsin-Whitewater, had 42 tackles, nine tackles for loss and two fumble recoveries this season for the Warhawks (7-3). The Whitewater defense ranked second in the nation in scoring defense (10.2 points a game) and rushing defense (52.7 yards a game) this season.
Preseason poll: Oklahoma’s women’s gymnastics team, which includes Huntley grad Kayla Nowak, is ranked No. 4 in the 2013 GymInfo Preseason Coaches Poll.
OU has been ranked in the preseason top 10 for eight consecutive years and is the defending Big 12 Conference champion.
Nowak, a senior, is coming off a season in which she tied her career-best scores of 9.875 in the beam and a 39.375 in the all-around.
Red-hot Scot Bernhard: Freshman basketball guard Kyle Bernhard is one of D-III Macalester College’s top 3-point shooters this season.
Bernhard (Dundee-Crown) has started seven games for the Scots (3-6) of St. Paul, Minn., making 35 percent of his 3-pointers (13 of 41). Bernhard is averaging 4.7 points and 1.3 rebounds a game. He had a team-high 12 points and was 4 for 6 from long range Sunday in a 74-61 loss to Lakeland College.
Kudos for C-G grads: Cary-Grove grads Brandon Coleman and Jake Underwood helped Drake to its second consecutive Pioneer Football League title this season. The local athletes also earned second-team All-PFL honors.
Coleman, a senior defensive end, led the Bulldogs (8-3, 7-1 PFL) with 13.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. Underwood, a junior defensive back, ranked fourth on the team with 63 tackles and had two interceptions.
• Barry Bottino writes a weekly column and a blog about local college athletes for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at BarryOnCampus@hotmail.com, check out his On Campus blog at McHenryCountySports.com and follow him @BarryOnCampus on Twitter.