Volume 38, Issue 9 | Thursday, November 2, 2006
 Seniors look to end careers with success

   ryan mellenthin, Fourth Estate





(Left to right) Seniors Natalie Berglin, Alex Webster, Nicole Soulis and Amanda Popp look to lead the Phoenix back to the NCAA tournament this season.
Photo by Jason Houge/Fourth Estate


With the new season on the horizon, the women's basketball team is yet again chosen to finish atop the Horizon League by the league's coaches, sports information directors and media in the preseason poll.


This honor has been bestowed on the Phoenix for the last five years. The prediction seems to be a safe bet, considering the Phoenix has finished each of the last nine seasons by taking the title outright or sharing it with another team.


The upcoming season marks the end of an era in Phoenix women's basketball. With the opening of the Kress Events Center next year, this will be the final season the women's team calls the Phoenix Sports Center home. This season also marks the end of the collegiate careers of four UW-Green Bay women's basketball players that have been an intricate part of the team's recent success.


"They understand all of the things that are important in being successful in the game," said Head Coach Kevin Borseth. "Obviously, when they get in the game, their performance is critical."


One area that UWGB looks to improve on is the non-conference schedule. Last season, they suffered road losses at Iowa and DePaul. This season's non-conference schedule includes teams such as Kansas State and Minnesota, both of which have rich basketball histories.


"We know this year that we are more aware. We have to come and play every single night because if we don't, as we found out in some of the non-conference games, we weren't ready to play last year," said senior forward Nicole Soulis. "Now we're at the point where we're anxious to get the season under way."


Soulis has made a huge impact in the Phoenix offense throughout her collegiate career. She is now ranked seventh in school history with 1,372 points. Soulis is also coming off a season where she averaged 18.4 points per game, which was 30th in the nation and first in the Horizon League. In the preseason conference polls, Soulis was chosen as the preseason Horizon League Player of the Year, and earned preseason first-team all-league honors.


"We've always been picked to come out strong in the conference," said senior guard Natalie Berglin. "Yeah, the pressure is always there, and it's something you get used to, but since we shared (the conference championship) with Milwaukee, I think more pressure would be on them than on us. I think we have something more to prove instead of having a bull's eye on our backs."


Berglin also received preseason honors, as she was selected to the preseason second-team all-Horizon League squad. Following last season, Berglin was a second-team all-Horizon League selection, finishing second on the team with 14.3 points per game and leading the Phoenix with 4.7 assists per contest. Berglin also led the Horizon League with an assist-to-turnover ration of 1.82.


"(The seniors) have gotten so much better since we came here as freshmen, and now we see the new freshmen struggling. It's like that's where we were four years ago," said senior guard Amanda Popp. It's nice to finally know what you're doing and be able to lead the team."


Popp has been providing a good touch from the field since entering the program. Last year Popp shot 51.5 percent from the field, which was good enough for fourth in the Horizon League. Her 47.6 percent shooting from behind the arc led the Phoenix in perimeter shooting.


"We hope to get back to the tournament. I think we have the talent and work ethic for that, and we don't expect anything less," said senior guard Alex Webster. "We're going to have our ups and downs, and hopefully we'll be able to stay on top of things and finish at the top."


In 2005-2006, Webster matched her career high of seven point son two occasions. She served as a reserve guard and appeared in 22 games last year.


Her sophomore season was cut short after suffering a season-ending knee injury after just four games.


Before transferring to UWGB, Webster played her freshman year at Southern Mississippi, where she played in all 29 games and averaged two points per contest.


"Alex has become one of our most vocal leaders," Soulis said. "I think she has been ever since she got here. She's definitely one of the people who isn't afraid to tell you where you have to be. She knows what's going on (and she is) very basketball smart -- one of the smartest players I have ever played with."


The Phoenix opens the regular season at Kansas State Nov. 10, and hosts Oakland for their home-opener Nov. 15. Soulis, Berglin, Popp and Webster will play their final home game Feb. 24 against Butler.