COLLEGE PLACE — Injuries and illness quickly sum up the Walla Walla University women’s basketball season so far.
The Wolves played their first two games against Eastern Oregon on Oct. 27 and against Northwest Christian Nov. 3. But return engagements against the same two teams had to be scratched because WWU didn’t have enough players available.
Those games will be rescheduled if possible.
"I think we’ll be resilient," WWU coach Bill Clancy said of his team and the remainder of the season. "Eastern Oregon got us by 72, and Northwest Christian got us by 53. It’s tough. But I think we came through it intact and as a team.
"Once we get healthy, get our numbers back and get rest over the Thanksgiving break, we’ll come back united as a team."
The team’s next scheduled game is Dec. 5 against Columbia Basin College.
On the bright side as the season started, WWU had five players returning from last year’s squad.
But the Wolves lost returning point guard Megan Tan as she suffered a season-ending ACL injury that required surgery.
"She would have been running our offense," Clancy said. "She’s rehabing and is at practice every night. She’s still totally involved with the team."
Leading the Wolves on the court are returning junior guard Heather McFadden, junior point guard Anna Berg, post player Victoria Novielli and junior forward Dominique Pusher.
McFadden earned WWU’s Female Athlete of the Year award after last year’s work on the Wolves’ volleyball and basketball teams. She’s currently playing with the WWU volleyball team at the national tournament in Houston.
"Her play will be paramount," Clancy said of the 5-foot-6 wing. "She was MVP of our basketball team last year. Her hustle is infectious. She tends to make everybody better, she plays so hard."
Berg has played through illness so far this season, and is juggling academic responsibilities and her playing time this season.
The 5-6 point guard "is the heart and soul of our team," Clancy said. "She hustles, and is a motivator of other players through her example."
Novielli and Pusher bring some size to the small Wolves lineup.
Novielli "plays a lot bigger than 5-9," Clancy said. "She has good post moves and skills, and is consistent. I think the girls look to her as a role model, and she’s assuming more of that role in her second year."
Novielli, who suffered an ankle injury in last season’s opening game and returned to help WWU finish the year with six straight victories, is again fighting off ankle pains.
"We’re just looking to have her help us at post," Clancy said.
Pusher, at 5-11, returns after knee injuries last season.
"Dominique’s a big post player," her coach said. "She’s come in with a good attitude and is working hard. She has lots to offer. She’s a good post player but can step out and has a nice outside jump shot, and can take a 3-pointer and bury it."
Newcomers to the Wolves include Megan Moore, a 5-6 sophomore guard with deep ties to the entire WWU basketball program. Her father, Mark Moore, is an assistant on the men’s team and her brother, Mark, is a guard on that team.
"Megan’s a hard worker," Clancy said. "She’ll give us some minutes, and has a good jump shot."
Chelsae Sims is a 5-7 freshman guard who is "a real hard worker and good hustler," Clancy said. "She’s got a pretty good medium-range jump shot. She’s learning a lot."
Five-6 freshman guard Tawni Shay Hunter "has been a real nice addition," Clancy said. "She has a really nice outside shot. She’s smooth and natural — a real good technique on the jump shot."
Katie Wilson, a 5-2 freshman guard, suffered a separated shoulder several weeks ago.
"She’s a really, really, really hard worker," Clancy said. "She’s out until at least after the Thanksgiving break, possibly until the end of the Christmas break. We’re hoping she’ll be back sooner."
A mid-season lift may be found from McKenzie Duellman, a 5-10 sophomore forward who won’t be eligible to play until the end of the first academic quarter.
"She’s been a delight," Clancy said. "She’ll probably get more physical as the year goes on. She’s a real nice addition to the team, and is very vocal in a positive way. She offers some size in out tiny lineup."
Cambria Mensink also brings some size to the Wolves. The 5-10 freshman forward is "working hard and is going to help us in the post," Clancy said. "She’s working on her speed, and is a real positive individual. When we go with seven (players) she starts on the bench and understands that. She comes in and makes the most of it."
Clancy praised the efforts of his assistant coaches, Paul Starkebaum (defense) and Matt Cantrell (offense).
"Those guys are highly knowledgeable," he said.
Now in his third season at the Wolves’ helm, Clancy is optimistic through all the adversity.
"I think we’ll have a positive season," he said. "It’s tough to say how many we’ll get in the win column, but we’re focusing on improving every game."