MARQUETTE, Mich. -- Northern Michigan Women's Basketball returned to the NCAA Division II Women's Basketball Midwest Regional Semifinals in a season full individual and team highlights that showed off the team's toughness throughout the season.
The Wildcats posted 23 wins this season with four wins coming over ranked opponents, including two wins over top-seven programs in less than a week. The season started with the squad defeating #25 Lewis University in the season opener. Later in the season, NMU defeated #9 Grand Valley State University for GVSU's only Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference defeat of the year. After defeating Ferris State University in the GLIAC Tournament Quarterfinals, the Wildcats faced the Lakers on their homecourt for the GLIAC Semifinals and came away with another win over the #7 Lakers to advance to the GLIAC Championship.
Ashland got the best of NMU in the championship, but the Wildcats got revenge just six days later, defeating the #4 Eagles in the first round of the NCAA DII Midwest Regional Quarterfinals to advance to the Regional Semifinals before falling to #1 seed Drury University.
The team's defense was key throughout the 2018-19 season as they finished the season ranked third in Division II allowing just 52.1 points per game and only committed 13.3 fouls a game for the eighth fewest in the country. This defense held Ashland to 30 points below their average in both the GLIAC Championship and the NCAA Tournament matchups.
Head Coach Troy Mattson captured his 200th career-win to become just the second coach in program history to reach that milestone. Senior Darby Youngstrom (Cook, Minn.) also reached a career milestone by scoring her 1,000th career point at Michigan Technological University and finished with 1,070 career points. The senior led the team with 11.3 points a game on her way to earn First Team All-GLIAC honors along with sophomore Lexi Smith (St. Germain, Wis.), who averaged 10.3 points a game. The pair combined to win four GLIAC Player of the Week honors as both won the award two times, including a stretch of earning the distinction for three straight weeks to start the new year.
Youngstrom returned from a knee injury suffered during her junior season and helped guide the team's success along with four other seniors: Taylor Hodell (Wausau, Wis.), Chloe Tompkins (Dousman, Wis.), Sydney Dillinger (Houghton, Mich.) and Tess Weatherly (Howell, Mich.). The senior class overcame much during their careers at NMU to finish with 68 wins in four seasons playing together and three-straight winning seasons. The group's efforts paved the way to the first NCAA Regional Semifinal since 2010 and the most wins in a season since 2000-01.
Each senior provided a an important part of the team's success. For a majority of the season Weatherly led the GLIAC from the three-point line while Dillinger capped her career with an All-GLIAC Defensive Team selection. After battling injuries and illness throughout her career, Hodell returned to appear in 30 games this season. Tompkins also returned to the court this season by getting a start on Senior Day, her first action since a devastating knee injury her sophomore season.
Junior Jessica Schultz (Mineral Point, Wis.) aided the efforts as she earned Second Team All-GLIAC and Defensive Team recognition after pacing the Wildcats with 1.2 blocks per outing and contributed 9.6 points a game. Sophomore Amber Huebner (Marquette, Mich.) came on at the end of the season, scoring a career-high 17 points at Michigan Tech and started the final five games.
Junior Baleigh Delorit (Algoma, Wis.) and sophomore Elizabeth Lutz (Marshall, Wis.) provided outside shooting throughout the season. Delorit scored 15 points in the team's 70-66 double-overtime victory at Ferris State while Lutz reached double figures six times. Junior Erin Honkala (Howell, Mich.) and freshman Emily Mueller (Fond du Lac, Wis.) provided additional inside threats. Honkala reached double figures three times, scoring 12 points in the GLIAC Quarterfinals with Ferris State and finished second on the team in rebounding. Mueller made 11 starts for the Wildcats during her rookie campaign.
As the team begins turning their focus to the 2019-20 season, they will look back and attempt to match the toughness displayed throughout the 2018-19 season.