NORFOLK, Neb. – The Northeast Community College women’s basketball team knows what it takes to make it to the Region XI championship.
Last season, the Hawks fell just short of bringing home the hardware, but will set its sights on making a run to the national tournament beginning on Nov. 2 against Northeastern Junior College at the Cox Activities Center in Norfolk.
Northeast Head Women’s Basketball Coach Matt Svehla is no stranger to winning conference championships. He has led his teams to three in the past five years, and has won 18 throughout his career at Northeast.
The Hawks graduated two main starters from a year ago, so in order to have a shot at winning the conference championship, the Hawks will need to rely on its five returning sophomores that played in pivotal games last season.
“I think you always need your returners to play well and have your news kids step in and step up,” head coach Matt Svehla said.
Sophomores Kyla Moore (Norfolk, Neb.) and Emina Hadzihusejnovic (Mostar, Bosnia) will be two key components that the Hawks will rely on as the season begins. Last season, Moore averaged 8.5 points per game with her largest scoring output of 20 points against Hastings College JV. Moore also grabbed 67 steals and 51 assists in 24 games as a freshman, while being named Honorable Mention All-Region.
Hadzihusejnovic saw action in 24 games in her first year with the Hawks and tallied six points and 3.9 rebounds per game, while shooting 58 percent from the field. She gives the Hawks a much needed height advantage under the basket.
“We are expecting Kyla and Emina to play well and take another step up,” Svehla added. “We also expect Emina to be a little strong, confident and more competitive.”
Caitlin Orton (Mills, Neb.) adds another strong presence on the floor for the Hawks after tallying 5.5 points per game and shooting 50 percent from the field.
Macey Kulhanek (Howells, Neb.) and Jacalyn Schwanebeck (Hyannis, Neb.) will see their workload increase throughout the season.
“Having good depth is going to be important for us,” Svehla said. “We will have to score by committee and our execution will have to play into our success.”
The sophomore class will also be responsible for leading a talented class of newcomers that have high basketball IQ’s and are going to be competitive, according to Svehla.
“We have athletes that are tough and really play hard; we are going to expect that our kids are going to be competitive and handle the college game,” Svehla said.
After having successful high school careers, Breanna Stouffer (David City, Neb.), Lorna Maxon (Laurel, Neb.) and Hannah Ollendick (Tilden, Neb.) are three freshmen that Svehla will count on early to be hard-nosed basketball players that are expected to handle the physicality of the college game.
Stouffer was a four-year starter at Aquinas High School and scored more than 1,000 points in her career, averaging 18.5 points per game as a senior. Maxon was a four-time letterwinner and was named Omaha World-Herald and Lincoln Journal Star Honorable Mention as a senior after averaging 11 points per game.
Ollendick joins the Hawks from nearby Tilden, Neb., after scoring 1,455 points in her career. She was the all-time leading scorer and assists leader for the Falcons and holds the record for most 3-pointers. She led her team to the state tournament as a senior, while beating the No. 1-ranked team to place fourth in 2019.
International standouts Beth Matas (Girona, Spain), Julia Carbonell (Barcelona, Spain) and Katarina Zagorac (Novi Sad, Serbia) are expected to give the Hawks quality minutes in their first year under Svehla. Hannah Kasik (Leigh, Neb.) and Kelly Kleffner (Spalding, Neb.) also add depth for the Hawks entering the 2019-20 season.
“This has been a very coachable team,” Svehla added. “They have some togetherness and they are hardworking, which will play well into our success this season.”