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NDSU women's basketball: Team stronger, but loses 2 freshmen

The difference from a year ago is more than national television cameras Friday night at the annual "Late Show." This season, North Dakota State women's basketball has a team that looks better walking off the bus.

The difference from a year ago is more than national television cameras Friday night at the annual "Late Show." This season, North Dakota State women's basketball has a team that looks better walking off the bus.

They're stronger. They're more physically fit. Whether that translates into more victories this season remains to be seen, but head coach Carolyn DeHoff said the top off-season goal has been accomplished.

"That was our spring commitment," DeHoff said. "We had to make a physical commitment."

The Bison open practice Friday at the Bison Sports Arena with the "Late Show," an event that will include periodic appearances on an ESPNU program. NDSU will also do it without two freshmen.

DeHoff announced Tuesday that forwards Paige Beck and Rachelle Eckmann will miss this season with knee injuries. Beck, whose injury was called career-ending, will be a student assistant coach and Eckmann will have micro-fracture surgery for a condition that flared up about three weeks ago.

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It's a continuation of the injuries the Bison endured last year when they were down to six scholarship players. That shouldn't be a problem this year.

NDSU, which finished 16-13 last year - 12-6 in The Summit League - will open with 13 players and most, if not all, will get a legitimate shot at being in the regular rotation. Five seniors return in guard Inger Hodgson and Nicole Vigil, forwards Ashley Samuelson and Skye Smith and center Jill Zaruba.

Sophomore guard Katie Birkel is expected to be the leader out front. Hodgson is the leading returning scorer at 12.6 points. Birkel averaged 10.0.

"She's been an example to what it will take to get to the next level," DeHoff said.

Sophomore forward Abby Plucker is healed from a shoulder injury that caused her to miss almost all of last year. She averaged 14.2 points in her limited duty.

Junior forward Megan Shea is making a bid to finally return from a knee injury and junior guard Whitney Trecker has a lot of experience in her two years starting 21 games last season.

True freshmen Danielle DeGagne, Hannah Linz, Janae Burich and Ashley Tingelstad will get their chances in pre-season practice.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack at (701) 241-5546

Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
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