2017-18 PREVIEW: New-look Lady Lancers poised for upcoming season
WINONA LAKE, Ind. – Grace’s women’s basketball team is bringing a new system to the court for the 2017-18 season.
The Lady Lancers are eager to continue momentum from last year’s success, showcasing a revamped offense under head coach Scott Blum.
Grace had 17 wins last year, the fourth-most in program history. Grace also finished fourth in the ultra-competitive Crossroads League with nine wins.
After graduating two starters from last season, Blum has brought in two transfers and three freshmen who have the ability to transform Grace’s style of play.
Blum’s Lady Lancers, who in recent years have relied on strength and post scoring, are hoping to be more “positionless” this winter. Blum’s goal is for each player to have the ability to fluidly change to any position on the court during the game, creating havoc and mismatches for opposing defenses.
Grace’s emphasis this year will be on movement and quick ball rotations. So far in the preseason, Blum has been pleased with the progress.
“The ball movement we’ve shown so far has been the best that I’ve seen during my time coaching,” Blum said. “The girls have bought into this system, and we are creating wide open shots as a result. It’s going to fit our personnel well, and I’m excited to see how we fare against other teams.”
Two aspects of Grace’s personnel help make the new system possible: proficient outside shooting and basketball smarts.
Brooke Sugg and Lauren Godfrey are the team’s deadliest returning shooters. Sugg was enjoying a breakout season last year before suffering a season-ending injury. She averaged 12.8 points per game while making 40 percent of her 3-pointers.
Godfrey had multiple triples in 10 games last year and will be asked to carry a greater scoring load this year. She has looked “really confident” in her larger role, according to Blum, and is poised for a big season.
Blum’s newcomers will also help unlock the team’s new offense. Sophomore transfers Micaela Box (Ursuline) and Lexi Minix (Saint Joseph’s) along with freshman Kyannah Stull figure to play major minutes this year.
Minix has a point guard mentality in a 5-foot-9 frame. She provides playmaking ability and vocal leadership on the hardwood.
Box is an elite 3-point shooter who can score in bunches, and Stull is a skilled guard who can direct Grace’s offense, shoot from the outside, attack off the dribble and also create shots for her teammates.
Kelsie Peterson is the lone senior on the squad and brings a wealth of knowledge and big-game experience to the lineup. She has scored at least 8.0 points per game in each of her first three years and averaged career highs in rebounding and assists last season.
Vironnica Drake, a sophomore guard, is tabbed to be one of the most dangerous players in the league. She was named Second Team Preseason All-League after enjoying a strong freshman campaign of 11.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game.
Blum has traditionally built a strong bench for Grace every year, and this season should be no different. In fact, Blum believes Grace may have one of the league’s deepest teams.
“We have a great balance of guards who can shoot or attack as well as posts who can shoot and put the ball on the floor,” Blum said. “Hopefully this creates issues for teams guarding us and helps wear down the opposing defense over the course of a game. Our depth at the guard position is especially encouraging.”
Junior Pam Miller and sophomore Rachel Montgomery will push each other for time in the post. Miller started 16 times last year and brings a physical presence to the squad.
Montgomery is eager to hit the court after seeing her freshman season cut short with an injury only five games into the year. The 6-foot forward is versatile with the ability to shoot from the outside and drive to score.
Myriah Hoffman, Kaylie Warble and Brooke Treadway each bring unique strengths to the frontcourt. Blum noted that each player will play a role during the season to take advantage of mismatches.
Broghan Gamble, a sophomore, and freshman Melissa Goss add depth to Grace’s backcourt; both guards have the ability to give Grace a spark off the bench.
Grace as a team wants to be the first in program history to reach the NAIA National Championships. To achieve that goal, Blum insisted that the women have to stay true to the team’s chosen theme this year of “ONE.” Longtime assistant coach Skip Forbes challenged the players to “hide yourself within the team,” forgetting individual accolades in pursuit of a greater team goal.
“We want to play for each other this year and be one in spirit and in mind,” Blum said. “If we can do that and truly give up our own self-satisfaction, we can finally break through and do some great things. I’m excited for the start of a new season and to see what the Lord has planned for this group.”
The Lady Lancers kick off the season on Friday, traveling to Holy Cross for a 5 p.m. game.