Last season, the injury bug bit hard for the University of South Dakota women's basketball team, with five players sidelined with season ending injuries before play even began.

This season's squad started the year much healthier, but now with the Summit League opener looming Sunday in Denver, the injuries are starting to take their toll again.

Two starters are sidelined, all-confernce first-teamer Nicole Seekamp has missed the last two games with an ankle injury, Kelly Stewart, one of the players who sat out hurt all of last season is still a few games away from returning, and now starter Heidi Hoff is out for the year with a torn ACL after starting the first 12 games of this season.

USD head coach Amy Williams told me the injuries are impacting this season a little differently than what happened in Vermillion last season:

University of South Dakota

With some uncertainty on the roster, the Coyotes have been looking for other players to step up, and Watertown native Tia Hemiller has answered the call.

The sophomore has moved into the starting lineup and is averaging 9 points and 6 rebounds a game, earning her Summit League Player of the Week honors this week:

USD stands 9-6 heading into league play, a perfect 7-0 at home.

The season started on the road, where the Coyotes dropped three of four.  But since November 24th, USD has won eight of ten, with the only losses coming at Creighton and at Nebraska:

One of South Dakota's strengths last season was rebounding, as the Coyotes finished the season as the top team on the glass in the Summit League (41 per game).

This season, USD is again on top in rebounding among Summit League teams, plus five per game, averaging more than 41 per game.  But coach Williams says those numbers don't tell the entire story:

This is Williams' second go round as a head coach in this league, and she says the familiarity will be helpful this season, although there are a few new wrinkles on this year's conference slate:

First up in the conference, one of those new wrinkles - Denver.  The Pioneers move to the Summit League after playing in the WAC last season, finishing 14-17.

This season has been rough for Denver so far, just two wins in their first 15 games.  But with games against the likes of Wyoming, Utah, Air Force, and Colorado, coach Williams says Denver's record doesn't tell the complete story:

Tipoff Sunday is 2:00pm CST in Denver.