Mary looking to dominate DAC-10 women's basketball
BISMARCK, N.D. -- The University of Mary women's basketball team not only has the Dakota Athletic Conference's top returning scorer.
First-year coach Fred Fridley will be able to start Sarah Leer (15.3 points per game) next to the league's top rebounder from a year ago, Jessica Zundel (8.3 rebounds per game).
"Each of them gives us something a bit different," Fridley said. "Sarah can score from the outside, and she's really worked on putting the ball on the floor. That's made her a more complete player.
"And Jessica really stretches the defense for us," he said. "She's a gifted shooter and is skilled on the low block. They definitely cause problems for opposing teams."
Zundel said the last two seasons together have helped the duo learn how to complement one another.
"It helps the team because we're really used to playing with each other now," she said. "But this is just a great team. There's not one person that really stands out more than anybody else."
The Marauders are the preseason pick to win the DAC-10, and are ranked fourth in the country in the NAIA preseason poll.
Fridley said the chemistry between Leer and Zundel has blossomed into something spectacular.
"They've just got another whole year under their belts together, and they've both grown as players," he said. "They've learned each other's game and you can really tell that they're extremely comfortable on the court together."
Leer said the entire team's chemistry has reached a new level.
"With another year together, everyone's more comfortable," she said. "Everyone knows what they're supposed to do, and what everybody else is doing."
Not only do the Marauders bring back first team all-DAC-10 picks in Leer and Zundel, but Nicole Meier -- the league's co-freshman of the year -- returns in the post.
Add seasoned guards Natalie Brunner, Kari Wilcox and Aften Miller to the mix, and Mary boasts a complete team all around the court.
Fridley said the transition period has been easy because his team is a seasoned group that is willing to put in extra time.
"It's such a great corps of returning players," he said. "They've all improved so much, and it's because of the time they put in during the offseason."
Leer said she is anxious to get her senior year started, even if she doesn't want to see it end.
"You're anxious to start because it seems like we've been practicing forever," she said.
Mary's 2002-03 season ended in the quarterfinals of the national tournament when the Marauders fell to Concordia (Neb.) 57-55. Zundel likes this team's chances of getting back to nationals.
"We've got a lot back and got some good transfers and freshman," she said. "There's no reason this team can't be as good or better than last year. We've got unfinished business."
This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index