DES MOINES, Iowa - The Drake University women's basketball team hosted its annual media day at the Knapp Center Thursday afternoon. First-year head coach Jennie Baranczyk spoke with the media in the Paul Morrison Room before the group moved out to the Knapp Center floor to meet with the student-athletes for one-on-one interviews and photographs.
"It's finally here we start practice on Monday, Oct. 8," Baranczyk said. "We are a young team this season but you will see lots of excitement and we can't wait to start practicing and for our first game against South Dakota on November 11. I've been here five months and it's been an incredible time and the community has really gotten behind Drake and our program in that time."
Nine first or second year players, one junior college transfer, two juniors and one senior round out a young, but talented roster in Baranczyk's first season. Baranczyk has embraced her team's youth especially as she works to implement a new system both on offense and defense.
"It's going to be a fun system to play in," Baranczyk commented. "The three things we are not going to compromise on are the same things I said when I got hired. We are going to have an up-tempo style of play, we are going to rebound and we are going to communicate."
Stephanie Running (Oak Creek, Wis.) is the Bulldogs' lone senior this season. Running averaged 5.8 points and 4.4 rebounds per game in 24 games last season before suffering a season-ending hand injury. Sophomore Kyndal Clark (Webb City, Mo.) was the team's second leading scorer (9.8 ppg) in 2011-12 on her way to being named to the all-MVC Freshman team. Clark and redshirt sophomore Carly Grenfell (York, Neb.) are the top returning shooters for the Blue and White in 2012-13. They led the Bulldogs in three-pointers made a year ago with 46 and 31, respectively.
Clark and Grenfell along with junior Alyssa Marschner (Plymouth, Minn.) are the most experienced guards on this season's roster. Three freshmen, including Alexis Eckles (Milwaukee, Wis.), Dilonna Johnson (Milwaukee, Wis.) and Ashley Bartow (Sun Prairie, Wis.), along with junior-college transfer Mary Pat Specht (Shawnee, Kan.), round out the Drake guards.
Running, junior Morgan Reid (Kansas City, Mo.) (5.9 ppg and 5.1 rpg) and sophomore Liza Heap (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) lead a young group of post players for the Bulldogs. Sophomore Cara Lutes (Maplewood, Minn.) played in 31 games a year ago and sophomore Symone Daniels (Memphis, Tenn.) played in three non-conference games before suffering a season-ending injury. Bartow will split time between guard and forward for the Bulldogs. Freshman Emma Donahue (Naperville, Ill.) will have a chance to see minutes at center for Drake.
Baranczyk's coaching staff will also feature a few familiar faces to Bulldog fans. Her first hire was retaining veteran assistant coach Allison Pohlman. Pohlman has been an assistant at Drake since the 2007-08 season. Former Chipola College head coach and Iowa native David Lane was hired as an assistant coach. Courtney Graham, who coached at Holy Cross for three seasons, was the final assistant hired by Baranczyk. Former Iowa State standout Kelsey Bolte is the new coordinator of basketball operations for the Bulldogs
The Bulldogs will play a challenging schedule before MVC action begins in early January. Drake will play 11 non-conference games with home games against South Dakota (Nov. 11), Illinois Chicago (Nov. 18), Chicago State (Dec. 2), Iowa (Dec. 16) and Saint Louis (Dec. 21). The squad travels to Iowa State (Nov. 27), North Dakota State (Dec. 6), North Dakota (Dec. 8) and Milwaukee (Dec. 29). Iowa and Iowa State were both NCAA tournament participants in 2011-12. A trip to the New Mexico State Tournament in Las Cruces, New Mexico with matchups against UC Irvine (Nov. 23) and George Mason or New Mexico State (Nov.24) is also scheduled.
The Drake women's team will have many events between now and the first exhibition game on Nov. 2 against Quincy. Next Thursday (Oct. 11) they will host the One-on-One with the team event at the Knapp Center beginning at 6:30 p.m. The event is a chance for the public to come out and meet this season's team and enjoy dessert and a short reception with members of the Drake faculty. The 2012 Primetime Preview with the Drake men's basketball team will take place Thursday, Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. in the Knapp Center. The final event will be the Bulldog basketball breakfast tipoff event at the downtown Des Moines Marriot on Thursday, Oct. 25 at 7 a.m.