Northwest Missouri State's women's team ventures away from home for the first time all year this weekend to an area of the country first-year head coach Mark Kellogg knows very well.
The Bearcats (3-1) play back-to-back games at the Colorado Christian Tournament in Denver, Colo., today and Saturday, providing Kellogg a return trip to the state he used to coach in.
Before arriving at Northwest this year, Kellogg spent seven seasons as the head coach at Fort Lewis (Colo), a school located six hours southeast of Denver in Durango.
"It will feel a little different probably just because I'm wearing different colors now, green and white," said Kellogg. "It was home for the last seven years and we'll have some people there; former players, and parents from the Fort Lewis days that I think are going to come and watch and support us even though it's a different team. We'll have at least a few familiar faces."
Northwest opens the tournament today at 4 p.m. against Texas Woman's College and finishes up with host Colorado Christian Saturday at 3 p.m.
The meeting with Texas Woman's is the first since Northwest beat them 92-73 in the opening round of the South Central Regional during the 2010-2011 Final Four season.
A member of the Lonestar Conference, Texas Woman's is off to a 2-1 start. They lose their last game to new MIAA member Central Oklahoma 59-35.
The Pioneer roster contains seven junior college or Division I transfers. One of those is 6-6 center Mary Kotvun, a native of Ukraine.
Sophomore guard Toree Mason is the team's leading scorer with 14 points per game.
Second day opponent Colorado Christian is a member of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference which also houses Fort Lewis.
Christian is 1-1 this year, beating Chadron State 106-68 in its opener and losing to Metro State 73-61. Mariah Metoyer is the team's leading scorer with 15.5 points per game.
Second leading scorer Christina Whitelaw, a 5-7 point guard, was the RMAC Player of the Year last year and an honorable mention All-American selection. She averages 14 points per game and 4.5 assists.
"I expect them to be really good games," said Kellogg. "We're going to have to battle to come away with some wins. (Whitelaw) is probably one of the best players we'll play against all year. Texas Woman's will give us a new look. They'll both be athletic and play pretty fast. We'll have to play our way and see if we can impose our will a little bit."
Northwest is looking to rebound from a 59-55 loss to William Jewell—its first of the season— in the final game of the Winstead-Reeves Tournament.
Page 2 of 2 - The Bearcats coughed up a nine-point with under seven minutes left, scoring just one more point the rest of the way.
This followed three straight wins by an average of 34.7 points.
"It always bring you back to reality a little bit any time you lose," said Kellogg. "It kind of makes you re-analyze where you're going, what you have. We'll watch the film today. We took (Monday) off. We should have a little chip on our shoulder for sure moving forward."
The undefeated Bearcats return home this weekend to play back-to-back games against teams out of the Northern Sun Conference at the inaugural Bearcat Classic.
Northwest faces Upper Iowa Saturday at 3 p.m. and Southwest Minnesota State Sunday at 3 p.m. Central Missouri will also play both of Northwest's opponents over the two days.
The Bearcats are off to a 3-0 start, winning all three games by at least 17 points despite the absence of All-MIAA starting point guard DeShaun Cooper.
Upcoming opponent Upper Iowa is 2-0 with wins over William Jewell (68-60) and Truman State (70-67).
The win over Jewell occurred a week before Northwest beat them 75-56 in the Hillyard Classic in St. Joseph.
Upper Iowa's leading scorer is 6-6 senior Sam Elgin with 15.5 points per game. 6-0 senior guard Jake Hughes and 6-3 guard Joey Woods each average 10 points per game.
Southwest Minnesota beat Northwest twice during the 2010-2011 season when the Bearcats finished 10th in the MIAA.
The Mustangs are 2-2 so far this season. They went 2-1 at the Disney Tip-Off Classic in Anaheim, Calif., and lost their previous game to Michigan Tech 75-67.
They will play Central Missouri Saturday at 1 p.m. before taking on Northwest.
Southwest Minnesota has three players averaging in double-figures led by Jake Long with 14.0 points per game.