Nov. 1—WILLMAR — Ridgewater College
will not field a women's basketball program for the 2023-24 season.
Warriors athletic coordinator
Todd Thorstad confirmed that there wouldn't have been enough players to play a full schedule in the Minnesota College Athletic Conference.
The program is suspended for one season with the hope of fielding a team for the 2024-25 season.
"It's tough to take," Thorstad said. "Hopefully, we'll re-load and get recruiting."
The team has suffered from a lack of numbers in recent seasons, often only suiting up five or six players for most games. Ridgewater went 0-14 in the MCAC and 1-27 overall in 2022-23. The school did not renew the contract of
head coach Carrie Ogdahl
, who had a 3-41 record in the past three seasons. Ridgewater canceled the 2020-21 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ryan Schultz was hired at the end of August to take over the women's basketball program after five seasons as head girls basketball coach at Yellow Medicine East High School in Granite Falls.
"We knew coming in that with a new coach not being able to come in until the end of August that there really wasn't any time to recruit," Thorstad said.
There was one returning player expected back, Gabby Randt, a forward from MACCRAY who just wrapped up her second season on
Ridgewater's volleyball team
. Limiting to finding potential players already enrolled, it was decided to focus on getting the team ready for next year, Thorstad said.
"Ryan's done a nice job," Thorstad said. "We've had recruits making visits already. He's a go-getter and he's out there recruiting."
Thorstad, who has worked at Ridgewater since 2000, said it's the first time he can remember that the Warriors weren't able to field a women's basketball team.
He also agreed that lack of numbers is not unique in women's junior college basketball. Many schools in the MCAC have less than 10 players on their roster and some have had to suspend play like Ridgewater because of a lack of numbers.
Ridgewater and all MCAC schools are two-year programs that are members of NJCAA Division III, which don't offer athletic scholarships. It's up to the teams and to find student-athletes willing to play while going to school. Many work. Plus, Thorstad agreed that the smaller population of the Willmar area makes it tougher to find athletes.
"There just aren't any big schools in our area," he said.
Prospective student-athletes hoping to continuing their careers in college have plenty of two-year choices. Ridgewater competes for student-athletes in various sports with St. Cloud Technical & Community College and Alexandria Technical College, as well as Minnesota West in Worthington and Minnesota State-Fergus Falls.
It's a challenge, Thorstad admitted.
Ridgewater currently offers volleyball, basketball and fast-pitch softball for female athletes, as well as trap-shooting. Men's programs include basketball, wrestling, baseball and trap-shooting. Ridgewater dropped its football program in 2018.