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University of Mary head women's basketball coach Rick Neumann talks to his team in a huddle during a game this season at the McDowell Activity Center.

Adversity has hit the University of Mary women’s basketball team early.

But don’t look for the Marauders to hang their heads. They definitely did not in Seattle last week when they nearly swept a pair of NCAA Division II teams.

Lauren Rotunda, the Marauders’ versatile 6-foot junior from Fargo, will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury suffered against Yellowstone Christian College on Nov. 14. On a brighter note, Rotunda will be able to use a medical redshirt and get a full year of eligibility back.

“If there was a year to sustain a major injury and be able to overcome it, this group would have as good a chance as any,” said U-Mary head coach Rick Neumann. “We’re bummed for Lauren, it’s a tough one. She’s a terrific player and a big part of our program, but we’ll look forward to next year when she’s back stronger than ever.”

Even without Rotunda, the Marauders nearly knocked off a perennially strong D-II team (Western Washington) on its home floor, falling 73-72 amidst some shaky officiating. The following night (Nov. 24), they held another D-II team – Saint Martin’s – to just 47 points in a 15-point victory.

“A number of our girls had never been to that part of the country so it was a really fun experience for them to get out and enjoy parts of Seattle and take in some unique and interesting sights,” Neumann said. “Basketball-wise I thought we played well both days. I was really encouraged and I felt good about the trip as a whole. We had fun and we got better.”

The Marauders (2-1) kick off Northern Sun play on Saturday, hosting Minot State (5-1) at 3:30 p.m. at the MAC. The Marauders and Beavers have played to a draw over the last number of years with each team winning seven of the last 14 matchups.

“You can’t have a rivalry if it’s one-sided, but overall the last several years both teams have had their fair share of success,” Neumann said.

It’s a matchup of contrasting styles. The Marauders like to pound it inside to ace post player Gabbie Bohl, while the Beavers are more perimeter-based.

That’s not to take anything away from U-Mary’s guard play, which is coming on strong.

Freshman Tonya Dvorak, sophomore Coral Gillette and junior Jordyn Jossart – all from Bismarck – have had double-figure scoring games this season and Macy Williams has been close. Dvorak, who can go inside and out at 6-1, moves into the starting lineup in Rotunda’s spot.

“It takes away from some of the scoring punch we had off the bench, but it gives some other girls opportunities to expand their roles,” Neumann said.

Cassie Askvig is off to another stellar start. The versatile junior from Minot is second in scoring (19.7) and rebounding (8.9) behind Bohl and first in assists (4) per game. 

The Marauders check all the boxes statistically. They’re scoring well (82.3) and not giving up much (59.6).

Next on the list is getting off to a good start in conference play, something which has eluded them in recent seasons. The schedule tees up nicely with their first three NSIC games in Bismarck.

“I think it’s imperative to get off to a good start and that’s something we’ve learned the hard way that once you get into a hole, it’s very difficult to climb out of in our league,” Neumann said. “I really like where we’re at right now. Obviously Lauren’s injury is unfortunate, but aside from that we’ve continued to improve and we certainly expect for that trend to continue.”

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Reach Tribune sports editor Dave Selvig at (701) 250-8246 or david.selvig@bismarcktribune.com

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