Entering his eighth season directing the Iowa Central women's basketball program, Craig Carlson has learned to adapt to the talent he has on his roster.
After winning 57 games, including a fourth place finish at the NJCAA Div. II National Tournament in 2011, the Tritons must replace the likes of Mika Rodewald, Alison Nagel, Lauren Christianson, Morgan Markert and Rebekah Rolling.
"Basically, we have to replace five kids that were two-year starters for us," said Carlson, who is 176-55 overall in seven years at the controls and 89-29 in league play. "But the kids coming back, they have done a great job of stepping up and leading the freshmen."
Lauren Bengen is the leading returning scorer, and will be counted on to provide plenty of points as Iowa Central replaces all-time leading scorer Rodewald. Bengen, a guard, averaged 8.8 points a game.
"Lauren hasn't practiced yet because of a foot injury, so we are hopeful that she will be able to get back out there soon," Carlson said. "She is a great three-point shooter and we will be counting on her."
Rebecca Easton (2.4 points), Allison Seibert (2.4) and Carly McRae (2.0) all saw extensive minutes as freshmen.
IOWA CENTRAL WOMEN'S BASKETBALL
Sophomores - Annie Lindburg, G, Essex; Carly McRae, G, Australia; Allison Seibert, F, Saint Charles; Lauren Bengen, G, Reinbeck; Rebecca Easton, F, Macedonia.
Freshmen - Theresa Doyle, G, Fort Dodge; Katie Dentlinger, F, Coon Rapids; Babaye Oja, G, Austin, Minn.; Briana Baker, G, Omaha; Miliakere Koyamainavure, G/F, Suva, Fiji; Jasmine Binion, F, Davenport; Nyadhol Lieth, F, Storm Lake; Aubriegh Yetmar, F, Fort Dodge; Lydia Harvey, G/F, Fort Dodge; Kirsten Pike, G/F, Braham, Minn.; Jade Gregory, G, Omaha.
Nov. 2 - Briar Cliff JV; 6 - Grand View JV; 9 - vs. Kishwaukee at Kirkwood Classic; 10 - vs. Joliet at Kirkwood Classic; 14 - SASI; 28 - at Grand View JV.
Dec. 3 - AIB; 5 - Buena Vista JV; 8 - DMACC; 11 - at Black Hawk; 15 - Marshalltown; 17 - AIB.
Jan. 2 - Wartburg JV; 5 - at Ellsworth; 9 - NIACC; 16 - at Kirkwood; 19 - at Northeast; 23 - at Iowa Lakes; 26 - at Southeastern; 30 - Southwestern.
Feb. 2 - at DMACC; 6 - Ellsworth; 9 - at NIACC; 13 - at Marshalltown; 16 - Kirkwood; 20 - Iowa Western; 23 - Iowa Lakes; 27 - Southeastern.
March 2 - at Southwestern.
"Easton, Seibert and McRae all saw time on the court last year, but will need to provide us with even more this season," Carlson said.
Katie Dentlinger leads a talented group of newcomers that will help the returnees. Dentlinger, a 5-foot-11 forward, averaged 17 points and 14 rebounds for Coon Rapids-Bayard a year ago. She also made 51-percent of her field goal attempts, and added 72 steals.
"We are going to be counting on the freshmen with all the graduation losses we suffered," Carlson said. "Katie has done a nice job. She was a very efficient player in high school."
A trio of St. Edmond graduates are expected to help off-set the graduation losses, as Lydia Harvey, Aubriegh Yetmar and Theresa Doyle have all exchanged green and white for blue and white.
Harvey scored 11 points per game last year, while Yetmar averaged just under nine. Doyle was injured during the season and missed the last half of action. She was averaging just under 10 points a night before the injury.
"All three Gael players have really come in and quickly taken to the college game," Carlson said. "Theresa is still returning from her knee injury, but I fully expect the three of them to contribute this year for us."
Babaye Oja, a guard from Minnesota, posted 15 points, 7.7 rebounds and three steals last season, while also hitting 34-percent of her three-point shots.
"Oja is one of the quickest players I've ever coached," Carlson said. "And I have seen good things from Briana Baker, Jasmine Binion, Kirsten Pike and Jade Gregory so far in the preseason."
Kirkwood is the preseason favorite to repeat after going a perfect 14-0 in league play a year ago. The Eagles, who advanced to the national tournament, are ranked fifth.
Des Moines Area is the only other ICCAC program in the first set of rankings, coming in ninth.
"Kirkwood and DMACC are going to be the top teams, and hopefully we can compete with them," Carlson said. "I think if everything comes together, we can be in the mix."
Jordon O'Brien is the new assistant coach for the Tritons. She is a graduate of Western Illinois.
O'Brien will be taking the place of Sara Davis and Alicia Onnen.
"Jordan has done a great job so far," Carlson said. "It's tough (without Davis) because she's been with me for so many years.
"Change is scary, but change can be good. I guess we will find out."