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Friday, December 9, 2022

Young Mount Union women’s basketball team seeks continued improvement throughout season


That will be a good word to keep in mind for fans of the Mount Union women’s basketball team in 2022-23.

Mount Union's Emma Cannon, right, shoots a shot defended by Otterbein's Tamia Kendrick during conference action at Mount Union on Friday, February 5, 2021.

Mount Union’s Emma Cannon, right, shoots a shot defended by Otterbein’s Tamia Kendrick during conference action at Mount Union on Friday, February 5, 2021.

That’s what happens when there’s an unusually large number of first- and second-year players on the roster.

Patience and perseverance.

That will be the catchphrase for coach Suzy Venet because that’s what she’ll need to have and what she’ll be looking for starting Wednesday when the Purple Raiders open the season by hosting Geneva College in a non-conference game at 7 p.m.

The accent will be on youth. No matter how you describe it, this is going to be a massive rebuild job. Only six of the 19 players who appeared in games last season are returning.

Mount Union enters the season, Venet’s 18th at the helm, with just three seniors and one junior on the roster.

There are eight first-year players and three others with one year of experience. Venet feels that at least five, and as many as six, of the eight first-year players will see extensive playing time.

When the Raiders closed out the 2021-22 season with an overall record of 10-14 following a 14-point loss to second seed Baldwin Wallace in the Ohio Athletic Conference tournament, the numbers were slightly different.

That night there were eight freshmen and sophomores and seven more experienced players.

“What we’ll be looking for is for the team to improve as the season goes on,” said Venet, who has had just four losing seasons in his 17 years. “We want to improve every match. We want to see that kind of consistency.”

One of the bright spots of last year came in the OAC tournament when the sixth-seeded Raiders defeated third-seeded Marietta 68-64 in the road quarterfinals. At the time, Marietta was 21-4 and Mount was 9-13.

Marietta, coached by senior forward Erin Hahn of nearby Louisville and junior Hannah Schill of Rootstown, was voted the OAC favorite this season in a poll of conference coaches.

Baldwin Wallace, who shared the OAC regular season title with John Carroll but defeated the Blue Streaks in the conference tournament title game, was chosen to finish second with Otterbein third. Given the lack of experience, the Raiders placed sixth.

BW will start the season ranked 15th in the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association poll and 12th in the poll conducted by D3hoops.com. Marietta is ranked 19th on D3hoops.com, but did not make the Top 25 in the WBCA poll.

Venet, whose teams have won four OAC tournament titles and played in four NCAA tournaments, is pleased with how things have gone so far considering the general lack of familiarity.

“The chemistry has been really great,” he said. “This is a fun group to train at right now.”

Venet will rely heavily on three of the six returning players: 5-foot-7 Emma Cannon (Dalton), 5-8 Madison Hensley (Blacklick) and Gretchen Koken (Harmony, Pa.).

Mount Union's Gretchen Koken, center, with the ball guarded by Otterbein's Abby Zerkle during conference action at Mount Union on Friday, February 5, 2021.

Mount Union’s Gretchen Koken, center, with the ball guarded by Otterbein’s Abby Zerkle during conference action at Mount Union on Friday, February 5, 2021.

Cannon and Hensley will start, along with sophomore point guard Dae Nash (Akron), 5-6 sophomore Ali Hudik (Mentor) and 6-1 Mckayla Dunkle, a freshman from Cadiz.

Cannon earned All-OAC first-team honors last season when he led the team in scoring with 13.6 points per game and Hensley averaged 6.1 points and 2.2 rebounds. Cannon, an 86% free throw shooter, has averaged 12.4 points since he transferred from Marietta before the start of the 2020-21 season.

Hudik and Koken are returning from injuries that cost them parts of the 2021-22 season. Hudik played an average of 7.4 minutes in 16 games and scored 1.9 points per game, while Koken was limited to eight games and averaged 4.9 points.

“We’ll need them to help Cannon and Hensley score,” Venet said.

Dunkle, who averaged 17.7 points during her senior season at Harrison Central High, is one of five freshmen expected to speak regularly.

The others are 5-10 Audrey Livesay (Revere), 5-7 Halle Ignacio (Jackson), 5-5 Bailey Shusta (Norton) and 5-7 Sierra Schlosser (Bishop Ready). Hailey Haywood, a 5-8 sophomore from Barberton and Addison Mucci, a freshman from Canton, could also fit into the mix.

Shusta was named to the Division II All-Ohio First Team last year when she led Norton to the state semifinals.

After Wednesday’s opener against Geneva, the Raiders will play in the tournament in Westminster, Pa., on Saturday and Sunday, then return home to face Pitt-Greensburg on Nov. 16.

The Raiders also have non-conference games with Oberlin and Concordia-Chicago before opening the OAC game in Heidelberg (Dec. 3).

Mount Union Women’s Basketball Schedule 2022-23

November 9 – Geneva, 7

No. 12-13 – at the tournament at Westminster

Nov. 16 – Pitt Greensburg, 7

November 19 – at Concordia-Chicago, TBA

November 29 – at Oberlin, 7

December 3 – in Heidelberg, 4

December 7 – at John Carroll, 7

Dec 10 – North Ohio, 4

December 20 – at Ohio Wesleyan, 2

December 31 – Wilmington, 3

Jan. 4 – Baldwin Wallace, 7

January 7 – in Capital, 4

January 11 – at Marietta, 7

January 14 – at Otterbein, 4

Jan 18 – Muskingum, 7

January 21 – Heidelberg, 4

January 25 – John Carroll, 7

Jan 28 – at Ohio Northern, 4

February 1 – at Baldwin Wallace, 7

February 4 – at Wilmington, 4

February 8 – Marietta, 7

February 11 – Capital, 2

February 15 – at Muskingum, 7

Feb 18 – Otterbein, 4

February 21-23-25 ​​- OAC Tournament

This article originally appeared in The Alliance Review: Mount Union women’s basketball opens with Geneva

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Nicole Aniston
Nicole loves to write and works as a corporate communications expert by day. She's been working in the field for quite some time now. Her training in media studies has provided her a wide perspective from which to tackle various issues. Public relations, corporate communications, travel, entrepreneurship, insurance, and finance are just few of the many topics she's interested in covering in her work.
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