Home » Sports » St. Norbert College » Experience is on SNC’s sideWomen return five of its top six scorers from a solid squad

Experience is on SNC’s side
Women return five of its top six scorers from a solid squad

By Rich Palzewic
DE PERE – With five of its top six scorers returning this season, the St. Norbert College women’s basketball team is looking to take the next step.

After falling short in the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference (NACC) championship game to Wisconsin Lutheran College last February, the Green Knights finished 19-8 overall and 14-3 in the NACC.

“We didn’t know what to expect (last season),” St. Norberg coach Amanda Leonhard-Perry said. “We were coming off a COVID-19 year where we didn’t play, while the NACC did. It was all new opponents and places to play — we only knew what we had. We were happy with our season and took on the motto, ‘Earned not given.’ We stuck together as a team.”

As well as the Green Knights fared in 2021-22, Leonhard-Perry said they can do better this season.
“Having played a year in the NACC will help us this season — we know the teams and their systems, but you have to go out and play between the lines,” she said.

Leonhard-Perry likes this year’s group.

“We have a nice mix of veterans and freshmen,” she said. “I like this year’s freshmen class — I hope they can play. They have good personalities, get in the gym and communicate well. They’re ahead of where we’ve been in the past in terms of that.”

With the loss of second-team all-conference player Jessica Boerner, a 6-foot forward/center, you can expect St. Norbert to run a bit more this season.

“We also lost a promising freshman from last year’s team who decided not to come out this season,” Leonhard-Perry said. “We are going to be smaller in the middle, so we have to adapt and try to get some easy baskets in transition. You can’t be stuck in your ways.”

The Green Knights return a pair of first-team all-conference seniors from last season — Olivia DeCleene and Kaycee Gierczak.

Gierczak led the team in scoring and rebounding at 11.6 points and 7.0 rebounds per game and had a team-high 17 blocked shots.

DeCleene averaged 9.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game, shot a team-high 85.7% from the free-throw line and had a team-leading 68 steals.

“Offense is always a work in progress for us,” Leonhard-Perry said. “We’re a defensive team, so we spend a lot of time on that. You’re going to have off nights offensively, but if you can stop teams defensively and stay in the game, you have a chance. Having said that, I feel good about our offense and hopefully we can incorporate those freshmen.”

It should come as no surprise that Leonhard-Perry, currently entering her third season at St. Norbert, stresses defense.

She spent 11 seasons as an assistant coach at Green Bay under coach Kevin Borseth.

Leonhard-Perry also played in three NCAA Tournaments and won four regular-season conference championships as a Phoenix player.

“Defense is in my blood,” Leonhard-Perry laughed. “I’ve taken things from all the coaches I’ve had, but I still find myself chuckling at some of the phrases Kevin used to say. To me, defense is exciting. If you stop a team four or five times in a row, it deflates them.”

Leonhard-Perry said Wisconsin Lutheran, Edgewood College and Aurora University should be challenges in the NACC.

“Coming from UWGB, Wisconsin Lutheran is the Green Bay of the NACC,” she said. “They’ve been at the top of the league for double-digit years. For the most part, it’s a tough league from top to bottom.”
A highlight for the Green Knights will be their trip to Florida in late December for the Daytona Beach Shootout.

St. Norbert will take on Southern Virginia University and Randolph-Macon College in its two games.

Current players speak out
Gierczak, a Notre Dame Academy graduate, said the Green Knights are expecting big things this season.
“We hope to have a great year,” she said. “It’s nice playing with the girls I’ve been accustomed to playing with for so many years.”

Gierczak, and De Pere’s DeCleene and Natalie Cerrato, all used to play against one another in high school.
“It’s a bit weird to think about us being high school rivals and now we’re teammates,” Gierczak laughed. “They were always tough games against De Pere and came down to the wire.”

DeCleene is excited about the season.

“We lost a few good seniors who will be tough to replace,” she said. “To have so much scoring back is exciting. We aren’t thinking too much about last year — every season is different. Coach has emphasized us getting out in transition more this season and getting easy baskets. We have some speedy girls on the team.”

Cerrato said playing in the NACC has its advantages.

“There are more teams in the NACC (compared to the Midwest Conference) and the travel is way easier,” she said. “The level of competition is much higher. Playing against better competition makes you better.”
Along with their own squad, all three players said they expect Wisconsin Lutheran, Benedictine University, Milwaukee School of Engineering and Edgewood to be at the top of the NACC.

St. Norbert women’s basketball 2022-23 schedule
11/11 – Lawrence University (Nicolet National Bank Tip-off Tournament)
11/12– Carthage College (Nicolet National Bank Tip-off Tournament)
11/16 – @ UW-Stevens Point
11/22 – @ UW-Eau Claire – 6 p.m.
11/30 – @ Lakeland University *
12/3 – Aurora University – 4:15 p.m. *
12/7 – Marian University *
12/10 – @ Rockford University – 4:15 p.m. *
12/19 – @ Southern Virginia University – 4 p.m. (Daytona Beach Shootout)
12/21 – @ Randolph-Macon College – 10 a.m. (Daytona Beach Shootout)
12/29 – @ Carroll University – 6 p.m.
1/4 – Edgewood College *
1/7 – @ Benedictine University – 4:15 p.m. *
1/11 – Wisconsin Lutheran College *
1/14 – Rockford University – 4:15 p.m. *
1/18 – @ Concordia University Wisconsin *
1/21 – @ Dominican University – 4:15 p.m. *
1/25 – Milwaukee School of Engineering *
1/28 – Benedictine University – 4:15 p.m. *
2/1 – @ Alverno College *
2/4 – @ Illinois Institute of Technology – 4:15 p.m. *
2/8 – Milwaukee School of Engineering *
2/11 – Concordia University Chicago – 4:15 p.m. *
2/15 – @ Wisconsin Lutheran College *
2/18 – @ Edgewood College – 4:15 p.m. *

  • Indicates a NACC game
    Note: All games begin at 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted.
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