PALATINE, Ill. – After enduring two straight losing seasons, the Harper College women's basketball program appears primed for a bounce-back season after going 9-14 last year. Jenny Turpel, who served as a Harper assistant for two years, takes over as the head coach and makes her coaching debut tonight as the Hawks travel to Elgin Community College for their season opener at 5 PM.
"It feels good, I'm definitely excited. I think I've got a solid group of girls this year," Turpel said.
That solid group starts with sophomore center Monica Hinderer (Arlington Heights, Ill./The Willows Academy), a Second Team All-Conference player in the 2012-13 season who led the Hawks in scoring (19.9 PPG) and rebounding (11.5 RPG). Hinderer and sophomore guards Rachel Payne (Wheeling, Ill./Schaumburg Christian Academy) and Ashley Packard (Wheeling, Ill./Buffalo Grove ) are the three returners for the Hawks.
Turpel is looking forward to Payne embracing her role as a scorer and Packard stepping up as a spot-up shooter. She also acknowledged the importance of Hinderer to the team's success.
"She's (Monica) a great athlete, huge competitor and great leader," Turpel said. "We're looking to improve her game a bit more so she can become that much more of a threat."
Hinderer said coach Turpel has emphasized fundamentals and conditioning in the first month of practice. She likes what she sees from her new teammates, who she described as "solid passers, solid shooters and players who are interchangeable."
Turpel has nine first-year players this year who are good ball handlers and athletes. She acknowledged that they'll have to keep working to make the transition from the high school game to a more fast-paced college game. She also brought in Todd Zasadil, a talented recruiter and basketball mind, to be her assistant coach and bring a fresh intensity to the program.
The N4C figures to be a strong conference once again this year, highlighted by defending national champ Rock Valley, who went 32-2 last year with an unblemished 13-0 conference mark. DuPage also looks to be strong once again after an 11-2 conference record last year, and Madison and Joliet also finished with records above .500 in the conference.
The Hawks were 5-9 in the N4C last year. That mark is something Turpel would like to improve this year.
"We'd love to beat Rock Valley this year," Turpel said. "With the other teams last year, we hung with them for a while but got gassed out at the end. I just want to keep bettering the program."
Hinderer likes the direction her coach is taking the team and is aiming high with her goals.
"I definitely think we can have a winning season and get to regionals. We just need to take it game-by-game."