Historic Season for Women’s Basketball Team

The Dakota State Women’s basketball team had just finished up their successful season right before the University closed due to COVID-19. This pandemic reminded us that sometimes things don’t always work out quite as you envision them. However, the women’s basketball team already learned this lesson at the start of their season. They had been planning for a successful season, but that’s not exactly how things started.

The team lacked conference after only winning four games last year, but with experience and incoming freshman, the team was hopeful. They were confident that this year would be different. However, after starting off the year with a record of 2-9 their hope was starting to dwindle. Nobody wanted a season like last year. Something had to change. The girls just needed one big game to gain their confidence. That game would come against nationally-ranked Sterling College.

It was the team’s last game before Christmas break. They were playing fourteenth ranked Sterling College at home. The team had made a couple of changes a few games prior. They changed their starting lineup to include sophomore transfer Morgan Koepsell and freshman Savannah Walsdorf. The team also started playing in a zone rather than a man-to-man defense.

Sophomore Jessi Giles shows off the skills that earned her a place in the NSAA All Conference first team. Photo by Karen Giles.

You could see the effect these changes were having. Earlier in the month, the team faced in-state rival Dakota Wesleyan. The Trojans played DWU the second game of the year and lost 94-74. This time around the game was a lot closer. The Trojans had the Tigers on their toes in the final minutes of the game. The Trojans had the game within three with only a few minutes left to play. The Trojans were forced to put the Tigers on the free-throw line and ended up losing 87-79, but it was a much different game this time around. The Trojans were slowly turning their season around.

They finally did just that against Sterling College. The Trojans won that game 80-69 and went into Christmas break with a different attitude—a positive one. That’s when things changed for Dakota State. Including Sterling College, the Trojans would go on to win 15 of their next 20 games thanks to a ten-game win streak.

Dakota State would end with a record of 17-14 and a conference record of 10-4. This would be Dakota State’s first winning season since 07-08. It was also the most conference wins since 07-08 and most home victories with eleven since 06-07. The team’s historic ten game win streak was also the best since the 83-84 season and is tied for the second best in school history.

Freshman Savannah Walsdorf hustles around her opponents—by the end of the season, she would be the NSAA’s honorable mention to the All Conference team. Photo by Karen Giles.

The team was led by a number of players. Sophomore Jessi Giles averaged 13.7 points per game and was named to the NSAA All-Conference first team. Sophomore Morgan Koepsell averaged 13.1 points and was named to the All-Conference second team as well as being voted the Newcomer Player-of-the-Year. Freshman Savannah Walsdorf averaged 11.3 points and was named to the honorable mention All-Conference team. Head Coach David Moe was also awarded the league’s Coach-of-the-Year award.

It was a remarkable season for Dakota State women’s basketball. They came in this year as the underdogs, always fighting for the respect of their opponents. This year they gained that respect. They are now a team that is feared. What’s more, they lose only one senior this year and return all five starters. They go into next season with high expectations and they go into the offseason ready to get even better. Not even a pandemic can stop the Trojans.

The gyms are all closed, but the team continues to work on their game. They have been doing various ball handling drills that can be done at home along with different strength and conditioning drills. The team is continuing to put in the work so when the pandemic is over they can jump back in right where they left off. It’ll be exciting to watch this team continue to grow. Good luck and go Trojans!