Last Spring was the best of times and the worst of times for the South Dakota State Women's Basketball team.

The bad?  The school's first ever loss in the Summit League tournament after winning five consecutive titles and making five straight trips to the NCAA Tournament.

The good? Following up that first round loss to South Dakota at the Sioux Falls Arena with a five-game run through the WNIT, with wins over the likes of Butler, Creighton, Minnesota, and Indiana, before falling on the road to UTEP in the semifinals.

All-in-all, a 26-win season, a Summit League regular season championship, and what head coach Aaron Johnston told me was making the most of a difficult situation:

This year's team is loaded with senior leaders, five in all, including pre-season all-conference player Megan Waytashek.

I asked Coach Johnston if this senior group would be feeling additional pressure to re-capture that Summit League Tournament title that eluded last year's team:

With all of those seniors, and other returning players like junior Chloe Cornemann, and sophomores Clarissa Ober, Kerri Young, and Chynna Stevens, it will be an already established group of Jacks, with some talented new faces working their way in as well:

(Photo by Dave Eggen/Inertia Media)

For Stevens, a sophomore who played in 34 of the 36 games as a freshman last year, averaging five points and three rebounds a game, it's all about knowing your role on this team:

Stevens stands to make an even bigger contribution to this year's team as a sophomore, and says she spent the off-season working on some key areas of her game:

(Photo by Dave Eggen/Inertia)

In the pre-season poll, South Dakota State is picked to its' fourth straight Summit League regular season championship, with Summit League tournament champ South Dakota second, and IUPUI (the only team to beat SDSU in the Summit League regular season last season) third.

Coach Johnston says there are plenty of other good teams in the conference, including Oral Roberts, who is back after leaving three seasons ago:

The Jackrabbits begin the 2014-15 season with a pair of exhibition games at Frost Arena in Brookings.  Thursday night, SDSU hosts South Dakota School of Mines at 6:00pm.  That's followed by a November 8th match-up with Northern State at 4:00pm.

The regular season opens November 14th, when BYU plays in Brookings.