As the women’s basketball team approaches its first games of the season, expectations of improvement were on the mind of head coach Bobbie Kelsey as she addressed the media in her weekly press conference Monday.

Kelsey quickly noted the improvement of new players after their first four weeks of practice.

“The new kids are really coming along, learning the offense,” Kelsey said. “It’s a lot for them coming from high school to this level. They’re working really hard.”

That group of new players includes the five freshmen that constitute Kelsey’s first recruiting class at Madison as well as junior college transfer Daria Kryuchkova. That collection of young players is still learning, but they are getting plenty of help from more veteran teammates.

Kelsey attributed some of the newer players’ progression to the Wisconsin veterans, notably the guards, a position where Wisconsin exercises plenty of depth.

“The returners obviously are a little further ahead than the new kids. They’re gelling really well, and we’re a lot more guard heavy this year than we were last year,” she said. “That’s nice to have some guards that can help Taylor [Wurtz] and Morgan [Paige] and take some of the scoring load off of those two and contribute that way.”

Wurtz and Paige are the top returning scorers from last season, averaging 16.1 and 10 points, respectively. In addition, both were named tri-captains by their teammates along with senior guard Tiera Stephen.

Wisconsin will likely lean on that pair as it plays its first exhibition against University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Thursday at the Kohl Center.

“You definitely want to win exhibition games,” Kelsey said. “These are not teams you have to beat to get a Big Ten title or get to theNCAA tournament, but they can be a little bit tricky because kids maybe don’t take them as serious.”

Kelsey is serious about her team’s first game, even if it is an exhibition. She noted a drop in the intensity of practice, but said her team is anxiously looking forward to taking the floor at home.

“I think practice has been a little stale … yesterday I noticed it more than any other day because they’re probably getting tired of playing against each other,” Kelsey said. “I think [our game] will give us a little boost of energy because it’s preseason and practice season. Before your first game, even if it’s an exhibition game, is pretty long. So it will be nice to play somebody else besides ourselves.”

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