NCAA Women: Aussies earn weekly honours

2016 has started remarkably well for the Australians, with no less than four players picking up weekly awards. It was also another great week for Marena Whittle, who moved into the top 20 in the country for double-doubles with her 7th of the season.

Georgia Stirton earned West Coast Conference player of the week honours after two fine performances helped Gonzaga to extend their perfect start to the conference season to four games. In an efficient outing against San Francisco, Stirton landed 5/7 from the field for 12 points and tacked on 4 rebounds and 3 assists to help the Zags to a 68-47 victory. Things were slightly closer against Santa Clara, but Stirton finished with a game-high 13 points as Gonzaga rode a 16-6 first quarter to a 53-44 victory to sit alone atop the WCC standings.

Lauren Nicholson continued her fine senior season, with her scoring taking precedence as Saint Mary’s split their games this week. In a tough game against BYU, Nicholson hit 7/11 from the field to finish with 17 points. Hannah Kaser also chipped in 5 points and 6 rebounds but the Gaels weren’t quite able to overcome their opponents, going down 65-59. Nicholson wasn’t quite as efficient against San Diego in the Gaels’ second game of the week, but still managed 16 points on 6/13 shooting as the Gaels picked up a 73-68 win in a game that they really should have put away earlier, but still managed to survive.

Idaho’s Aussies have enjoyed some personal success in recent times, and this week it was Geraldine McCorkell who stood out for the Vandals. In a 27 point demolition of North Dakota, McCorkell scored 20 points, with her ability to get to the line a standout. McCorkell shot 5/8 from the field, but tacked on another 8/12 from the charity stripe, whilst Renae Mokrzycki notched up 12 points and 8 rebounds, with Tayla Corrigan also chipping in 7 points. Sammy Roscoe also provided 7 points for North Dakota in their loss.

McCorkell wasn’t done after one game though. In a much closer contest against Northern Colorado, McCorkell shot 5/14 from the field, but again was able to contribute at the line, shooting 4/4 on her way to a 17 point and 10 rebound double-double as Idaho got the win 66-56.

Funda Nakkasoglu is one of the top free throw shooters in the country, and this was again evidenced as the sophomore guard went a perfect 16/16 at the line this week on her way to earning Utah State Student-Athlete Of The Week honours. Despite being slightly off from the field, shooting 5/16, Nakkasoglu was still able to contribute thanks to her ability to get to the line and then convert, finishing with 10/10 form the line for a total of 22 points alongside 5 assists. However it wasn’t enough as San Jose State got the win, 86-74.

Three days later, Nakkasoglu took complete control of the game against San Diego State. In a 55-36 win, Nakkasoglu shot 9/13 from the field and 6/6 from the line to contribute 27 points, near enough to half of the team’s total, as well as 5 assists for good measure. Freshman Rachel Brewster continued to grow into her role at Utah State, finishing with 12 points and 6 assists in the loss to San Jose State, before picking up 8 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists against San Diego State, as the Victorian continues to emerge as one of the top Australian freshmen this season.

South Dakota played just the one game this week, and Nicole Seekamp provided another solid all-round performance. The senior point guard came within one assist of a double-double, finishing with 17 points (6/10 FG) and 9 assists, and also chipped in 3 steals as South Dakota comfortably handled Denver 85-60.

Grand Canyon played three games this week, but the packed schedule didn’t faze Jess Gajewski who averaged 18.7 points for the week on her way to being named College Sports Madness WAC Player of the Week. In a 60-40 win over San Diego Christian, Gajewski shot 6/15 from the field, including 4/12 from three-point range for 18 points. Their sole Division I opponent for the week was UC Riverside who proved a bridge too far for the Lopes, but Gajewski had another 23 points on 8/18 shooting in the side’s 85-67 loss. The third game of the weekend saw a more balanced performance, as Gajewski finished with 15 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists as Grand Canyon easily accounted for Arizona Christian 87-54.

Alicia Froling was named to the American Athletic Conference Honor Roll for the third time this season, and sister Keely Froling also put in a solid performance, yet Southern Methodist went down in an agonisingly close loss to Tulsa. Alicia was almost automatic from the field, scoring 17 points on 6/8 shooting while also collecting 15 rebounds on her way to a big double-double. Keely wasn’t far from a double-double of her own, finishing with 10 points and 9 rebounds as SMU fell 56-54 in an extremely tight game. Keely had a last second shot to win the game, but it was hardly a realistic chance from almost half-court.

Virginia Tech cruised to a couple of victories this week, and Hannah Young was dialled in from the field for the entirety. The Hokies dismantled Furman 59-30, and the junior swingman was perfect from the field. With all her shots coming from outside the arc, Young finished with 4/4 from downtown for 12 points. Virginia Tech then moved into conference play, kicking things off with a 25 point demolition of Boston College, 58-33. Young wasn’t quite perfect this time, but still connected on 5/9 from the field for 13 points while also finishing with 5 steals in the victory. Vanessa Panousis also chipped in for the Hokies, adding 10 points and 5 assists.

Claire Ioannidis did all she could, but unfortunately North Florida fell to losses in both games this week. Ioannidis was a little streaky in her shooting, but managed to pick up 15 points (5/13 FG), 4 assists and 3 rebounds in a low-scoring affair that saw North Florida go down to UNC Wilmington 63-47. Ioannidis improved her shooting against Mercer, finishing with 5/10 from three-point range and 8/14 from the field but a 23 point effort couldn’t get the Ospreys over the line as Mercer cruised to a 68-54 victory.

Marena Whittle earned her 7th double-double of the season to continue her remarkable season even as North Dakota State went down in both of their games this week. Whittle shot 6/17 from the field but was perfect from the 6/6 from the line on her way to a 19 point and 15 rebound double-double in the Bison’s 77-52 loss to Omaha. The story was similar in the second game of the weekend, shooting 5/21 from the field but finishing with 4/4 from the charity stripe to tally 12 points alongside 14 rebounds in an 81-63 loss to South Dakota State.