Based on the NSIC standings, it might be safe to assume everything has gone as planned for the University of Mary women's basketball team.
That assumption would be incorrect.
The Marauders have piled up 13 wins in 19 games despite losing one of their best players for the season -- Lauren Rotunda -- way back in November.
The versatile Rotunda was second in the Northern Sun in minutes played as a sophomore but the Marauders were forced to play without the Fargo Shanley product when she suffered a season-ending knee injury in the second game of the season.
"Lauren brings so much to a team and it goes beyond what she does statistically," U-Mary head coach said. "She's very skilled obviously, but she also brings a lot of toughness and heart, those intangible things, that are not easy to replace."
Rotunda could guard multiple positions on the floor, was a double-figure scorer and a valuable late-game ball-handler and in-bounder.
However, the Marauders have found a way and sit in prime position for an opening-round home playoff game in the NSIC tournament. On top of that, an at-large bid to nationals is not out of the question. Over their last six games the Marauders will be considered the favorite in five of them. Also, five more wins would set a new single-season high for NSIC victories at 16. They're currently 11-5 in the league.
The Marauders next four games are all on the road, starting tonight at Upper Iowa (0-16, 3-21).
"We put ourselves back in the hunt with a great weekend against Wayne State and Augustana," Neumann said of last weekend's sweep, the first time ever U-Mary has beaten those two teams back-to-back. "We control our own destiny in terms of hosting a home playoff game, but in order to do that, we're going to have to be a little more consistent on the road than we have been up to this point."
The Marauders are 9-1 at home, but under .500 on the road (3-5). After Friday night's game, they play at Winona State (11-9), Bemidji State (5-15) and Crookston (10-12), before wrapping up the regular season at the MAC against Northern State (8-14) and MSU-Moorhead (18-4). The conference-leading Dragons (14-2) are the only NSIC team -- men or women -- currently ranked (No. 25).
"The girls are enjoying the season right now but in the back of their minds they know there are a couple things still out there for us that are pretty significant," Neumann said. "We also don't want to look beyond what's directly in front of us."
The Marauders continue to rank near the top in most statistical categories, especially one -- individual scoring. Cassie Askvig (18.9) and Gabbie Bohl (18.8) are first and second in the NSIC in points per game.
"It's very nice to have two extremely talented players like that, we just wonder what would happen if both went off in the same game," Neumann said. "Obviously, they're hitting their marks in mathematical terms for their averages, but we haven't really had a game where both of them had one those really high-end performances."
Both also are among the top rebounders in the league -- Bohl (9.8) is fifth and Askvig (9.6) sixth.
No team in the conference shares the ball better than the Marauders with an even 16 assists per game. Sophomore point guard Macy Williams (3.9) has climbed to No. 2 in the league in assists.
Williams also is averaging in double figures in points (10.8). Coral Gillette (8.6) is close.
Freshman Tonya Dvorak (5.2 ppg, 15 blocks) has filled many of the minutes that were open when Rotunda went down.
"Getting Lauren back next year is like adding a 5-star recruit and I say a 5-star instead of a 4-star because she knows how to play, and she knows what we're doing," Neumann said. "An injury to a player like that can certainly have a detrimental effect on your season, but we're really proud of our girls for finding a way to have success and putting us in the position we're in."