Wildcat women set for GLIAC opener

MARQUETTE — The Northern Michigan University women’s basketball team is finally back at the Berry Events Center.

After starting their season with seven straight road games, the Wildcats (4-3) will play their home opener tonight against Northwood and then tangle with Saginaw Valley State on Saturday.

NMU head coach Troy Mattson said Tuesday that both teams will offer different challenges for his squad with Northwood (3-2) having a lot of speed and Saginaw (0-6) with their scrappy style.

“They’re (Northwood) tough and they’re small,” he said. “They’ll start four guards and they’re extremely athletic and quick. That’s kind of the teams that bother us. We like teams that are similar to us in size. With their speedy guards, they put some pressure on us. They’ve got two really good players in Maddy Seeley and Hannah Orwat. Both of them are capable of scoring 20 (points) each night. But they’re their wing players and the strength of our team defensively is our wings. We feel that Sydney (Dillinger) can guard anybody. She stopped two All-Americans this past weekend. On the other side, Lexi (Smith) and Tess (Weatherly) and Emily (Schramek) have been doing a great job on the other wings. Their strength falls into our strength and we’ll see which one wins out.

“They’re (Saginaw) struggling right now. It’s amazing when you lose an All-American center and an All-American guard what happens to your program. They’ll be flying around causing chaos because that’s what they have to do, but they can’t stop the bleeding inside from other teams scoring. And they don’t have an All-American center to throw it down there and get 26 points per game. So that’s where they’re at right now. But they’re going to play as hard as anybody in our league and we need to be prepared for that.

“It’s the second phase of our season. We kind of look at our non-conference as phase one and conference phase two. Hopefully, you’re good enough to make the conference tournament, and make that phase three. Every team is 0-0 right now and I think if we continue to get healthier and continue to have our freshmen improve, we will have a chance to compete in the North Division for a championship.”

Looking back at last weekend where the Wildcats split the Bellarmine Tournament, taking down the host Knights, but then falling to Southern Indiana, Mattson said he learned that his team is getting better and that he was happy with its effort.

“We really competed well,” he said. “Not many teams get a chance to go into Bellarmine and win. We had some struggles early on in the game, but we really settled in and got our main people out there for the remaining stretch and they played great. We then turned around and played the No. 17 team (Southern Indiana) in the country and probably the best team that we’ve played so far this year. We totally dominated them and outplayed them in the first half.

“That’s probably the best half of basketball that we’ve played, especially on the defensive end. Holding a team that scores 70 or 80 points per game down to 22 for the half. We gave them a couple of baskets too off the press that we were pressing us and we missed a couple of defensive rebounds, but for the majority of the half, we completely outplayed them. So that gives me great encouragement that we’re going in the right direction. We kind of fell apart in the second half, the press got to us and they took it to us a little bit. But we competed for 80 minutes this weekend and that’s what this team needs to do. I was very proud of the way we played.”

Tonight’s game against Northwood starts at 8 p.m., while Saturday’s game against SVSU begins at 1 p.m.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.