UND women’s basketball is rich on tradition. During the seasons that UND was in Division II, North Dakota won National Championships year in and year out. At one point UND went on to win three straight Division II National Titles from 1995 to 1997.
Head coach Travis Brewster, who already has a NCAA Division I tournament appearance to his name, will look to bring his Fighting Hawks back to the championships after a two-year hiatus.
It won’t be easy for Brewster, who will have to replace do-everything player Mia Lloyd, who graduated and now is playing overseas in Iceland.
Is there anyone that can replace Lloyd’s production from last season? Maybe not, but as a whole, UND might be as deep of a team there is in the Big Sky conference.
UND will return a loaded backcourt. Mikailah Dyer, Leah Szabla and Jill Morton all return to try and help the Hawks return to the NCAA tournament, somewhere they haven’t been since 2014, where they lost to Texas A&M.
Dyer was the leading scorer last year for the Fighting Hawks, and was the leading three-point shooter for UND, after hitting 41 threes last season. Dyer averaged 30.4 minutes per game last season, and that number might even increase this season.
Szabla and Morton didn’t put up big point totals last season, but defensively, Morton and Szabla might be the best two defenders on the Fighting Hawks.
Fans in the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center will be seeing a familiar face this season, this time it will be in the good kind of green.
Holly Johnson, a senior forward from Minot, N.D., who played three years at NDSU, will be wearing Kelly green in her final collegiate season.
The former Miss Basketball from Minot High School, started 59 games for NDSU in her sophomore and junior seasons. Her best season came in 2014-2015 when she averaged 12.2 points per game and 7.0 rebounds, starting all 29 games the Bison played in.
Johnson, who was voted co-captain by her teammates, should bring some much needed scoring and rebounding to this team.
UND will be playing some big time opponents in the non-conference. The Hawks will play two Big 12 opponents Texas Tech, and Kansas while playing the Iowa Hawkeyes from the Big Ten for the second straight season.
The Hawkeyes will be making a rare trip up to Grand Forks in November. This will be the second Big Ten opponent that has come to the Betty in the last three years, when the Minnesota Golden Gophers came to town in 2014-2015.
UND will have a lot of expectations to live up to this season. In the annual Big Sky coaches poll, UND was voted second, just behind defending league champion Idaho. UND was voted fifth in a very tight media poll.
Coach Brewster knows just how tight this conference is, and he’s not surprised to see five schools that got at least one first-place vote in the media poll.
“Anyone on any night can win, so preseason picks are exciting and this is an exciting group to go into the season with,” Brewster said.
As they head into the new season and the fans will be able to see their first glimpse at this year’s squad, UND will face Minnesota-Crookston Nov. 6, 7:00 p.m. at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center.
Hunter Plante is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]