SYRACUSE – There won’t be many nights off for the Wawasee Lady Warriors. The hyperbole is real for the girls basketball team, as a very tough schedule plus having to replace two outstanding seniors could lead to some early growing pains.
Wawasee brings back 10 players with at least seven games of varsity experience from a season ago, but those players managed just four wins. The team is also tasked with having to replace two valuable seniors if the program hopes to get back to the glory its experienced in its colorful history.
Gone are graduated seniors Casey Schroeder and Caitlin Wortinger, Schroeder earning a chance to catch on at Indiana University Kokomo. The two combined to score nearly 16 points per night and add eight rebounds and four steals per. That kind of output might not be massive for some teams, but for a Wawasee squad that averaged just 34.6 points per game last season and broke 50 points just one time, it’ll need to be addressed as soon as possible.
“We’ve seen this before with the program, losing a dynamic player that’s hard to replace,” stated Wawasee head coach Matt Carpenter, entering his fourth season with the Warriors. “With Casey gone, how do you look to replace what all she was able to do for the program (on and off the game court)? Without a doubt, we will miss both Casey and Caitlin. Cait brought us a toughness on the court and Casey was a dynamic scorer and leader. That being said, the coaching staff is extremely excited about who we have coming back.”
Wawasee does bring back three seniors as well as four juniors with varsity experience. Hannah Lancaster, Rhian Galloway and Jadison Rostochak lead the senior class, Lancaster averaged just three points and two rebounds, but played 25 minutes per game. Galloway and Rostochak were used sparingly in varsity action.
Lancaster and junior Danielle Jenkins both ran the point for the Warriors, Jenkins offering over five points a night in roughly a half season of play. Juniors Abby Steiner and Ava Harker both played in over half of the varsity contests a year ago. Ella Beezley and Tate Cowan also join the junior class contingent.
Wawasee had a trio of sophomores Carpenter feels can contribute right away. Jada Carter and Kennedy White both played big roles for Wawasee last season, Carter playing in 21 games and White in the second half. Carter (5.5 ppg, 2 rpg) and White (4 ppg, 4 rpg) were complimentary players as freshmen, but a year older should get a lot of looks.
“We have a group of underclassmen that might have taken their lumps last year at the varsity level, but played a lot of ball over the spring and summer,” Carpenter said. “Ella Beezley and Danielle Jenkins, and Jada Carter, Becca Smith, Kennedy White and Emily Haines all at the sophomore level played competitive AAU upon completion of our season. All of them were extremely motivated to improve as individuals and help our team take a major step forward in competitiveness as quickly as possible.”
Wawasee is looking at a tough non-conference schedule, and also to get back into the Northern Lakes Conference conversation after an o-fer last season. The Warriors open Saturday night at home against Prairie Heights, but have Lakeland, Northridge and Warsaw, all considered contenders in their respective conferences, all before Christmas.
“If we do what we’re capable of, we could be led by a different player or two offensively each night,” Carpenter said, pointing to Lancaster, Jenkins, Carter and White as potential standouts. “All of them are looking at becoming even more of a scoring threat this year. Each one of their shots have improved and become more consistent this fall.
“Consistency, shot selection and the ability to get to the free throw line will all be crucial for us to have sustained offensive success this season.”