MILWAUKEE (WLCSports.com) - Wisconsin Lutheran College's Jen Dowden (Bonduel, Wis.) has been named the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference Player of the Year for the second straight year, highlighting the awards for the 2018-2019 women's basketball season that were announced Tuesday by the league office.
The senior forward was also named First Team All-NACC. Senior forward Maddy Elrod (Conifer, Colo.) was also a First Team All-NACC performer. Senior guard Lexi Reinke (Bonduel, Wis.) was named a Second Team All-NACC performer, while senior guard Maddie Cruz (New Berlin, Wis.) was named NACC Defensive Player of the Year. Fifteenth-year head coach Klay Knueppel was voted Coach of the Year by his peers.
Dowden, the defending NACC Player of the Year, ranks second in the conference in scoring at 16.2 points per game while shooting 46 percent from the field. The forward pulls down 4.0 rebounds and averages 3.2 assists per game. Dowden, who has started all 27 games, reached double figures 24 times and scored 20+ points in eight contests. The four-time First Team All-NACC selection poured in a season-high 30 points with 11 rebounds in the Warriors' 67-47 win over Concordia Wisconsin February 23 in the NACC Tournament Final. Dowden also became the program's all-time leading scorer in Saturday's win with 1,744 career points.
Elrod, who has started all 27 games, ranks third on the team in scoring at 9.6 points per game and a team-high 6.3 rebounds per game. The senior forward has connected on 52.5 percent of her shots from the floor, good for the third-highest mark in the conference. Elrod has posted five double-doubles with a season-high 18 points and 11 rebounds December 29 at Edgewood. This is the first conference award for the senior foward.
Reinke, who has started all 27 games, averages 7.0 points, 5.7 rebounds, and a team-high 3.7 assists per game. The senior guard shoots 42.8 percent from the field and converts a team-high 80.6 percent from the free throw line. She leads the conference with 2.3 steals per game and is third with a 2.4 assist-to-turnover ratio. Reinke has recorded six double-digit scoring performances with a career-high 19 points and 10 rebounds February 1 vs. Benedictine. This is also the first career conference award for Reinke.
Cruz, the fourth player to start all 27 games, averages 3.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. Assigned with guarding the opposing team's top player, Cruz is among the league leaders in charges drawn. She has recorded 2+ steals in 12 games, with a season-high four steals January 26 at Aurora. The senior guard is the anchor of the Warriors' defense that allows just 45.3 points per game. This is the first conference award of Cruz's career.
Knueppel led the Warriors to their seventh NACC regular season title, ninth NACC Tournament championship, and eighth NCAA Tournament appearance in the last nine years. The 15th-year head coach collected his 300th career win February 22 in a NACC Tournament Semfinal win over Dominican. It is the fourth conference Coach of the Year award for Knueppel.
Edgewood's Lexi Walter was named Freshman of the Year to round out the conference's major award winners.
The Warriors (26-1) travel to St. Paul, Minnesota Friday for a NCAA Tournament First Round game against No. 17 Illinois Wesleyan (23-4). Tip-off is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. inside Schoenecker Arena on the campus of the University of St. Thomas.