Dawn Plitzuweit accepted a double-barreled challenge when she became women’s basketball coach at Northern Kentucky University last year.

First off, Plitzuweit (Plitts-ZOO-white) succeeded the legendary Nancy Winstel, who won 636 games and two NCAA Division II championships in 29 years. Secondly, the team moved to Division I — the highest level of collegiate competition — as a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference.

The coach, who won a Division II national title at Grand Valley State and was an assistant at Division I Michigan for five years, told NKY she is enjoying the challenge.

You lost the first four games, then beat Youngstown State, which was undefeated at the time, 66-64 on a basket with less than one second to play. How important was that win?

We felt as though we had competed in each of our first four contests, so it definitely was special when we were able to not only compete, but to come out on top. It was a very exciting way to finish out our first home game as a Division I team and we could not dream up a more thrilling scenario.

Is either task — replacing Winstel or moving to Division I — more difficult than the other?

Both scenarios are challenging, but we are not focusing on either of those now. We are spending our time developing our players, as well as analyzing our upcoming opponents to prepare our players.

What did you do to prepare your players for the step up in competition?

The biggest adjustment is that the athletes are quicker, faster and more athletic. We have really focused on how to hold teams down defensively. 

All of our players had to make an adjustment to a new system on both ends of the court as well as to a new level of competition and that can almost be overwhelming. But they have embraced the changes and have been very coachable and fun to work with.

Will you be able to persuade any recruits that you targeted while at Michigan that NKU might be a better destination?

Recruiting the best student-athletes as possible for NKU academically and for our style of play on the court is really the biggest key to our program in the future.

The best part about being in the Midwest in the past is establishing relationships with coaches and players within our recruiting zone.

We definitely believe that if we continue to surround ourselves with great people that great things will happen.