By ANDY WOLF
The University of Findlay women’s basketball team is in a unique situation.
First of all, the Oilers sport 10 seniors on their roster.
They finally have postseason experience to build off, too.
“Usually teams don’t have that many veteran players,” head coach Jim Wiedie said. “And we’re excited about the possibilities just because of all that experience with what we lost last year.”
Only four seniors, two starters, graduated from last year’s squad.
UF finished 22-8 overall after reaching the conference and Division II NCAA tournaments for the first time since 2012-13.
The Oilers’ run ended in the first round of the Midwest Regional, hanging with No. 3-ranked Drury until the final minute before falling 76-72.
“It’s invaluable because this core group in particular had not experienced that,” Wiedie said. “Going into this season we’re anticipating a good year based off the talent we have and because of that experience.”
The biggest losses are guards Haley Horstman and Lynsey Englebrecht.
Horstman was a career 1,000-point scorer (13th all-time). Englebrecht shattered UF’s single-season 3-point record at 106 — breaking Trisha Lauck’s mark of 78 (1997-98).
They were both 30-minute players.
Findlay was still picked as co-Great Midwest Athletic Conference champions with Hillsdale in the preseason coaches poll.
The Chargers defeated the Oilers 81-70 in the GMAC tournament title game last year.
Wiedie felt the preseason nod was justified and expected.
“I look it as a compliment,” he said, citing their combo of talent and experience.
Wiedie has identified a core group of eight players, mostly seniors, to “play a large number of minutes.”
He cited seniors Anna Hintz, Allie Thobe, Jenna Stegmaier, Elissa Ellerbrock and Christa Puthoff as the “base core”.
Some within the eight will play 30-plus minutes.
The two most likely according to Wiedie are Hintz and Stegmaier.
“I’ve never been a proponent of playing kids 35-plus minutes,” he said. “But you’ve got a kid (in Hintz) that could potentially be the player of the year in the conference.
Hintz (6-foot-2) enjoyed a breakout junior season of averaging 18.4 points on 55 percent shooting and 8.6 rebounds per game.
She doubled her sophomore year output of 8.4 ppg with a new brand of confidence.
Wiedie expects her to average 20-10 this season.
“The coaches always talked to me about being more of a scoring role,” Hintz said. “Last year, I looked for my shot more to be more of an offensive threat.”
Wiedie noted Hintz will move more into her natural position at the four, allowing the 6-2 Puthoff (6.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg) to start at center.
Senior guard Jenna Stegmaier (7.9 ppg, 5.9 rpg) also started all 30 games and averaged 31.1 minutes per game — highest of any returner.
Wiedie sees Stegmaier as the team’s “glue player who does all the little things right.”
He also noted an increase in minutes for senior guard Allie Thobe (1.9 ppg) who started nine games last year. Thobe has 76 steals in 83 career games.
Ellerbrock (6.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 1.8 apg), an Ottawa-Glandorf grad, provides position versatility and shot 40.4 percent from 3-point range. She started the first 21 games, missed two with an ankle injury before coming off the bench the rest of the way.
“With everybody coming back we have a high standard for ourselves,” Ellerbrock said. “We can push ourselves even further than we did and just work harder to get even farther in the tournament.”
“I believe that we’ll have people step up and have a lot of scoring coming from different areas.”
Senior guards Jaclyn Heath (5-4) and Lauren Ruth, both transfers, will be counted on heavily.
Heath is a grad transfer from North Alabama University (Division II) where she started 43 games from 2014-2017. She averaged 4.4 assists and 1.2 steals in 32.7 minutes per game in 2016-17, her last season with NAU.
Ruth (5-10) transferred in last year from now-closed St. Joseph’s College (Indiana) and got six games before tearing her ACL. She’ll bring a strength in 3-point shooting and length on the outside.
Senior forward Dana Fricke (2.5 ppg) appeared in 25 games last year while senior Kennis Mercer (1.6 ppg) played in 15 games.
Wiedie will gradually work in his new class of four freshmen.
Carey grad and 6-foot-3 center Sydney Kin started two of UF’s three exhibition games. Ottoville grad Bridget Landin (6-0) is in the mix at forward. Lilly Simon (5-6) is a shooter and Amber Schweiger (5-7) is a point but can play off guard, too.
Ideally, the Oilers want to host the first round of the conference tournament.
As far as other goals, Wiedie checked out the national statistics of the top ten teams in scoring defense, defensive field goal percentage and free throw trips.
He found all the teams allowing 56-57 ppg and in the low 30s for shooting percentage largely made postseason play.
“You do those things consistently and you’re going to put yourself in a position where you accomplish those other goals, where you have a shot at winning your conference championship and going to postseason play,” Wiedie said.