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Mines Jacobson

First-year South Dakota School of Mines head women's basketball coach Jeri Jacobson runs a drill during a recent practice at the King Center. The Hardrockers open the regular season Saturday when they host Waldorf University.

Jeri Jacobson had about a four or five-year plan before she wanted to become a head women's basketball coach on the Division II level.

After four years as an assistant at the University of Idaho, Jacobson was named the head coach at South Dakota School of Mines this past summer.

Mission accomplished.

"I'm really excited about this because it is a dream opportunity. My goal has always been to be a Division II head coach and closer to Wyoming," the Riverton, Wyo., native said Thursday as she prepares for the Hardrocker home opener Saturday against Waldorff University. Tipoff is set for 3:30 p.m. at the King Center.

Jacobson replaces Ryan Larsen, who moved to the University of Wyoming as an assistant after six years as the Mines head coach.

Jacobson, who played at Central Wyoming college and Upper Iowa, was a graduate assistant at Upper Iowa and was the director of operations for one year at North Dakota, said she believes there should be more of a balance between school and basketball.

"I think you can build better relationships, and that is what I really enjoy the most about coaching; relationships with your players, you help them grow and mature," she said.

Jacobson hopes her team becomes an extension of herself. She said her values as a team are family first, followed by academics, character building, and then basketball.

She said it is all about we over me.

"One of the the things my college experience was to me was how I grew as a person," she said. "My coach was preparing us for life after basketball. That's my biggest thing that we focus on; everything we do is going to prepare them for when they graduate. We are a family and basketball is a long season. The tighter we are, the more success we have on the court, the chemistry we are going to have."

The Hardrockers look to improve on last year's 12-14 record that was 9-13 in Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference play.

Last Friday Mines traveled to Pocatello, Idaho, and faced Idaho State University in an exhibition. The Hardrockers fell 68-46, but it proved to be a good experience for the team, Jacobson said.

She said her players came out ready to play. The game was tied a couple of times — in the first quarter and early in the third.

"Idaho State is a very good defensive team, that's what they are known for in the Big Sky," Jacobson said. "It was good for us to go against some really athletic kids who pressured us. They took some stuff away from us offensively, so it was good to see and learn from the film. Hopefully our girls have picked up a couple of things; we need to share the ball this weekend and make some improvement."

The Hardrockers return four seniors, including post players Anna Haugen and Molly McCabe, and guards Sami Steffeck and Cooper Courtney.

Jacobson said they are strong in the post positions, led by Haugen (8.4 ppg., 9.2 rpg.) and senior Molly McCabe (6.3 ppg., 5.5 rpg.).

"They bring it every day," she said.

Also back down low is sophomore Melissa Johnstone. Freshmen Naomi Hidalgo and Ellie Till will also be in the mix.

The Hardrockers are also strong at guard with Steffeck (11.5 ppg., 3.5 rpg., 2.0 apg.), Courtney (8.3 ppg.) and junior Ryan Weiss (injured last season).

"Sami has the shooter's mentality down," she said. "The other shooters are learning from what I expect of them, which is different from what most coaches expect out of shooters."

Junior Michaela Shaklee brings a spark defensively for the team. Also back is sophomore Anna Combalia. New in the backcourt are freshmen Francesca Facchini and Sydney Leeper.

Waldorff University, a NAIA program out of Forest City, Iowa, is a good season opener for the Hardrockers, Jacobson said.

"It's a great opportunity for us to come out and just play," she said. "Idaho State was very scout-based, but this is a good home opener where our girls can come out, play pressure defense and execute our offense, and have more freedom to just play basketball."

The 'Rockers have just three non-conference games before they take on rival Black Hills State University in their Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference opener Nov. 26 in Spearfish.

"Everything for me has blown by fast, so I am not surprised that the next couple of weeks will fly by as well," she said. "It will be exciting to open (RMAC) up at Black Hills State. We have a lot of goals that we want to achieve this year as a team. That is where it really matters when we get into RMAC play."

In an academics first engineering school, Jacobson said she feels right at home, although her major in college was biology and chemistry.

"I enjoy being surrounded by all of the high academic student athletes," she said. "It's been a lot of fun seeing their accomplishments off of the court. They are absolutely brilliant. Sometimes that hurts us because they are so high achieving, they want to be perfectionists. But you can't be a perfectionist when you play basketball."

It's been a few years — not that many, though — for Jacobson since she transitioned from player to coach. "Pushing 30," she said she is still young enough to relate, but times are changing.

"I think it does help to still be able to meet them where they are at, and understand the generation a little better because it is very different generation than most people are used to," she said.

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