Jan. 5, 2011
Women kick off doubleheader with Western
By David Boyce
As much as Northwest Missouri State loves to beat its rival Missouri Western in any sport, the women's basketball team must keep focused on the main aspect of this game.
The Bearcats, 8-2 overall and 4-2 in the MIAA, face an equally competitive team at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at Bearcat Arena. Missouri Western is 7-3 and 4-2.
"I try not to get into that rivalry thing," said Northwest junior guard Abby Henry. "To me it is just another conference game and a game we really need to win. It's another game against a good team and it would be nice to come away with a W."
Northwest and Western are fighting to reach the top of the MIAA. Defending national champion Emporia State is first at 6-0. Washburn and Missouri Southern are locked in a two-way tie at 5-1.
Keeping company with Northwest and Western is Truman at 4-2.
"In the next three weeks in the league there will be a pack of wolves, a pack of dogs and a pack of Chihuahuas," Northwest coach Gene Steinmeyer said. "There will be some shifting during the season. But if you are in the pack of wolves you fight like crazy to stay there. It you are in the pack of dogs, you want to become a wolf and hope you don't become a Chihuahua."
The Bearcats are on a bit of a roll and look wolfishly hungry. They have won their last four games after starting off in conference play with road losses at Emporia and Washburn.
Northwest appears to be getting stronger as the season progresses. More importantly, the Bearcats won their last two games while adding senior center Gentry Dietz to the mix. Dietz sat out the first semester because she only had one semester of eligibility left.
"I feel like there is always room for improvement," Henry said. "Yeah, we have been playing well, but we are just getting Gentry back. We are trying to get into the flow of everything. So far I think we've been playing pretty well."
The Bearcats now have depth at the post and depth at the guard position.
But Western is fielding its strongest team in several years. Steinmeyer said right now Western junior forward Jessica Koch is in contention for player of the year in conference.
A year ago, the two teams split. It is likely Western remembers getting beat 103-73 a year ago at Bearcat Arena.
"I think it will be a real good game in which we will all be intense and ready to play with a lot of energy," said senior guard Gabby Curtis. "It's a game we really want to win."
Simply put, it is a game in which the intensity will be high regardless of the rivalry element.
"It's a very important game," Steinmeyer said. "It's a rivalry game, but it's a rivalry game for the first time in a few years that really means something. It always means something to the players and coaches, but this time it means something towards the standings and regional rankings and things like that."
And that means the Bearcats have to improve on the way they played Friday when they beat Lincoln 77-61 at Bearcat Arena.
"I hope we come out playing strong because in our game against Lincoln we kind of got off to a slow start," Henry said. "We really can't afford do that against Western."
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