Jerry Hanson, Sports Information Director
Clarke University’s women’s basketball team has been voted the team to beat in the 14-team Heart of America Athletic Conference this upcoming season. Coach Courtney Boyd’s squad garnered eight of 14 first place votes and totaled 162 points to finish atop the coaches’ preseason poll.
“This is one of the toughest leagues, from top to bottom, across the country,” said Boyd, who has led the Pride to back-to-back NAIA Division I national tournament berths. “Any time one coach from this conference thinks your team is good enough to finish first you know your team is respected, let alone having multiple coaches say that, to be voted preseason #1. With that being said, we still have to show up every night because nothing is handed to you in this league.”
Central Methodist finished second in the poll with three first place votes and 144 points.
Clarke fashioned a 25-7 record last winter, going 18-6 in league play.
“We are looking forward to returning a large number of upperclassmen,” added Boyd. “Having veteran experience competing in the Heart changes things come conference time. With a smaller non-conference schedule, it makes the conference games even more important. Many teams look different this year so it is hard to know what to expect. We open the Heart with two games on the road and we will need to be prepared for anything. If we stick to our game plan it will put us in a position to compete for the win.”
Clarke returns two NAIA All-Americans from last year’s lineup — Makenna Haase (SR/Appleton, Wis.) andMorgan Pitz (SR/Farley, Iowa). Haase, a three-time All-American, earned second-team honors last year, while Pitz was an honorable mention all-conference selection. Haase led last year’s squad in scoring (16.3), rebounding (9.4 ) and blocked shots (59) . Pitz chipped in 11.8 points per game and led the Pride in three-point field goals with 52.
Clarke will open the new season on October 30 with a non-conference tilt with the University of St. Francis in Joliet, Ill. The Pride will start league play at Mount Mercy University on November 18.