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PREVIEW: Northeast women look to take next step towards national tournament

PREVIEW: Northeast women look to take next step towards national tournament

In the past six years, the Northeast Community College women's basketball team has averaged more than 26 wins per year under head coach Matt Svehla, reaching the national tournament on two different occasions.

The vision and purpose hasn't changed for Svehla, as he embarks on his 25th season at the helm of the Northeast women's basketball program beginning tonight at 6 p.m. against Northeastern Junior College in Norfolk.

Svehla will turn to his five returning sophomores for leadership and a balanced offensive attack, coming off a 25-5 record last season.

"We are going to be pretty conventional and a balanced team," Svehla said. "We have some people that can shoot the three and some point guards that can create some things for us."

One of those scoring threats will be Irene Sanz, a dominant shooting guard that hit 43 percent from three-point land. A native of Spain, Sanz averaged 8.9 points and 3.2 rebounds per game last season. She had a season-high 22 points in an 82-65 victory over North Platte Area Community College on Jan. 24.

Another key contributor from last season that will look to increase her offensive production will be Jade Blackburn. A 6-foot-1 native of England that Svehla refers to as, "a versatile forward that can handle the ball and shoot the three."

Blackburn started in 12 games for the Hawks and averaged five points and 3.1 rebounds per game.

With hopes of returning to the national tournament, the Hawks will also need to rely on other key sophomores in Lauren Hunstad, Kori Fischer and Teagan Pompa.

Hunstad played in all 30 games a year ago and averaged 6.8 points per game, while Fischer and Pompa averaged 5.8 and 3.4 points, respectively.

With Fischer's length and Pompa's ability to shoot the basketball, the Hawks will be a force to reckon with at the NJCAA DI level. But, replacing All-American Mykala Baylor won't be an easy task. Baylor, now a member of the women's basketball program at Missouri University of Science and Technology, started in all 30 games as a sophomore, while averaging 11.7 points and eight rebounds per contest.

Other notable departures include: Judit Valls (University of Bridgeport), Sierra Bell (Purdue University-Fort Wayne) and Jerrica Neal (Concordia University-Ann Arbor).

Despite losing critical pieces, Svehla will lean on a talented group of freshmen down the stretch.

Freshman Blake Mann, Katie Richards, Eriana Brown, Kyla Moore, Emina Hadzihusejnovic, Macey Kulhanek and Jacalyn Schwanebeck hope to be the key pieces of the puzzle for the Hawks.

Mann, a native of Burwell, Neb., was the all-time leading scorer at Burwell Jr.-Sr. High School and was a Second Team All-State member as a senior. At the guard position, Brown and Norfolk, Neb., native Kyla Moore will be counted on early to distribute the ball for Northeast.

"We want to push the ball up and down the court," Svehla added after talking about the potential of the young Northeast guards.

The Hawks will look to do just that in hopes of making another postseason run and bringing home the District 'K' Championship.