Everyone is chasing the Warriors in the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference, at least when it comes to basketball.
The men's and women's teams at Indiana Tech have combined for 10 conference and tournament titles the last four seasons and the upcoming campaign could bring more of the same as both teams have been picked to finish at the top of the league by a panel of WHAC coaches.
Tech can begin to meet those expectations this week. The women's team opens play tonight at Huntington, while the men tip off Friday against Indiana Wesleyan, a team that spent most of last season ranked No. 1 in the country.
The Warrior women are coming off a 27-3 season that opened with 11 straight victories before a 61-59 loss to Indiana Wesleyan on Jan. 2 snapped a program-record 30-game win streak. Tech bounced back from that defeat with a second-place WHAC finish, a WHAC Tournament title – the team's third in a row – and a trip to the second round of the NAIA Tournament.
Six of Tech's top seven scorers are back to try to improve on that success.
“Our returners bring a wealth of in-game experience, it's a lot of minutes returning,” said coach Jessie Biggs, who is also Tech's athletic director. “With our experience, we're going to get up a little bit and try to cause some more turnovers, try to cause a little bit more havoc on defense. We've got (players) that understand the concepts and can take it to the next level.”
Among the Warriors' returnees are a pair of NAIA honorable mention All-Americans in leading scorer Erika Foy (14.6 points, 6.8 rebounds per game) and top shooter Kyra Whitaker (13.8 points, 38% 3-point shooting).
Also back are Emma Tuominen (8.5 points, 6.6 rebounds, 56% shooting) and Taya Andrews (9.4 points), who took advantage of the extra year of eligibility the NAIA granted because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Biggs expects Tuominen to take a step forward this season.
“She's just progressed every single year she's been at Indiana Tech,” Biggs said. “I look for her to take on a more significant role in scoring and just in leadership overall and she's done a really good job with that this preseason.”
The Warriors' men went 22-9 in 2020-21, including a 16-3 mark in its last 19 games. It finished third in the WHAC before exiting in the second round of the NAIA Tournament.
They have their top eight scorers returning, including first team All-WHAC performers Josh Kline (14 points, 6.3 rebounds), Rog Stein (13.6 points, 6.9 rebounds) and Grant Smith (13.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.5 steals) and WHAC Defensive Player of the Year Cory McKinney (11.2 points, 40% 3-point shooting).
Coach Ted Albert said he believes he has a “special group.”
“The way the season ended for us last year (a 65-58 loss to Marian in the NAIA Opening Round), typically you lose a few of those guys who have that season-ending chip on their shoulder,” Albert said. “This year, we have a large group that has that chip and thinks we fell a little short. Certainly we put ourselves in a good position last year, but this group has its eyes set on making sure we take care of the day-to-day tasks.”
In addition to all of their returnees, the Warriors will get reinforcements from Valparaiso transfer guard Steve Helm and freshman Blake Davison, fresh off leading Leo to the best season in program history.