WINONA LAKE — Head coach Scott Blum has a fresh batch of talent for the 2012-13 edition of the Grace’s women’s basketball team.
The Lady Lancers are coming off their best season in program history and hope to build on that success with a mix of upperclassman leadership and new talent.
Grace had its first winning season since 1991-92 last year as they recorded their first 20-win season ever (20-15). The Lady Lancers graduated a trio of 1,000-point scorers, but Blum is confident this team is ready for the challenge.
“Last year’s seniors did a great job building the program, and we were prepared for their departure with some great players under them,” said head coach Scott Blum. “This group is enjoyable to watch. The chemistry they have and the intensity they are working at will make for a fun year.”
Leading the way for Grace will be the team’s three seniors – Rianne Aguilar, Emily Bidwell and Jayla Starks. All three seniors have played in three consecutive national tournaments and enter the year with a drive to lead the team physically, mentally and spiritually.
Bidwell will be joined in the frontcourt by sophomore returners Allison Kauffman and Lindsey Schaefer. Blum is counting on the trio to mesh into one of the most dangerous and athletic post rotations in the Crossroads League.
The backcourt is highlighted by junior guard Juaneice Jackson. After earning the league’s Freshman of the Year honors two years ago, Jackson averaged 9.9 points per game last year to lead all returners. A terrific penetrator with the ability to shoot from the outside, Jackson will be counted on to pace the team in scoring.
On the court, Grace will display much of the same style that built the team into a mainstay in the NAIA Top 25 Coaches’ Poll last season. The Lady Lancers will rely on a balance of low post scoring and outside shooting, but they will be much quicker at nearly every position this year.
“Our style of play won’t be a big change. Our key will be getting easier buckets going up and down the floor,” Blum explained. “The speed of our offense and defense will be an asset to us, and we can do more with defensive schemes to create problems for our opponents.”
Blum has brought in a talented nine-player freshman class, with many of the players looking to contribute immediately.
Gabby Bryant will be looked upon to fill the starting point guard position left void by the graduation of Hannah Lengel. Bryant won multiple championships during her high school days at Heritage Christian and brings high-level experience to the guard play.
Micah Pollard was forced to redshirt last season with a knee injury and is back on track to regain the form that made her an All-City selection in Indianapolis at Covenant Christian. Kelsey Sule (LaPorte), Heather House (Garrett) and Jo Boren (Lakeland Christian) also join Grace’s guards after standout careers in high school.
The Lady Lancers will also have a new array of post talent this year with four forwards 5-foot-10 or taller. Sarah Feasby has impressed during preseason work and has the potential to be one of the first players off the bench, according to Blum. Jesse Feitz (6’2”), Tiffany Petro (6’2”) and JoEllen Fickel (6’0”) add tremendous length to the defensive end of the floor.
“I have a great feeling about this team with their chemistry and love they have for each other and the Lord,” Blum continued. “They have fun, but they also get after it defensively. Our goal is to finish together, get to the NAIA Tournament and do well. I feel like it’ll be a fun year.”
Grace kicks off their season at home on Oct. 27 against Holy Cross College.
Story provided by the Grace College Sports Information Department