Necks fighting for conference supremacy


File Photo

Morgan Blumer attemps to block an inbounds pass.

Michael Harms, Courier Staff

Western Illinois University is looking to grab another win with a matchup against the Omaha University Mavericks at home tonight. Western is near the top of the Summit League holding a 17-7 record and 7-3 in conference while Omaha is at the bottom with a 10-11 record and 1-7 in conference. 

In the last meeting between these two teams, Western hardly broke a sweat swiftly taking down the Mavericks 90-51 on the Jan. 13 game. Clemens showcased why she has won the Summit League player of the week nine times, by dropping 29 points and dishing out 6 assists. The Leathernecks had four players over double digits in the scoring column and couldn’t be stopped offensively.

This stat line is nothing new to Western fans as they are at the top of the Summit League with 82.1 points per game. Western is chasing South Dakota State University and the University of South Dakota for top spots in the conference, and needs every game to solidify their rank in the Summit League.

This game doesn’t hold much upside for Omaha as they trail in every category except turnovers. They are looking to shock the world coming into enemy territory and taking a W off of a high-powered offensive team. Omaha’s one conference win came against North Dakota State on January behind Amber Vidal’s tremendous performance. She had 21 points and six assists, along with averaging 12.8 points per game, and just a few assists. Vidal’s young talent will need to be relied upon when facing the more experienced Western Illinois team.

Western has the advantage on paper as they lead the Summit League in points per game, assists, and steals. Emily Clemens moved up in the record books passing Natalie Seacamp with most assists in Summit League history at 628. She continues to dominate in the Summit League and is leading the Leathernecks in another fantastic season.

Seniors Morgan Blumer and Olivia Braun also have showcased why this season is so special as Blumer has recorded her career high in three pointers made against NDSU, and Braun has recorded her career high in blocks with four also against NDSU. These seniors are determined to run deep into the Summit League tournament. As the Summit League defending champions this team understands that they must play at a high level to do it again. Coach JD Gravina states “We must play like champions in order to get their names into the record books once again.”

The Leathernecks are coming off a loss at USD with a tale of two halves. First half the leathernecks shot a horrid 27 percent from the field, but in the second half shot over 60 percent. This loss serves as an important lesson for the Leathernecks of playing at that championship level for an entire 40 minutes.

Last matchup against Omaha, Western showed how easy it was for them to play at an elite level over time. Playing at this level takes energy and the Leathernecks’ physicality isn’t a worry for Gravina. He has talked about how his practices aren’t typical and conditioning is never a focus because of how this team plays.

High paced offense, and track meet style games help tire out teams and provide an advantage for Western.