2020-21 PREVIEW: Lady Lancers poised for big year
WINONA LAKE, Ind. – Grace’s women’s basketball team has big plans this season after a disappointing end to their 2019-20 campaign.
The Lady Lancers were having a banner year last season with a record of 19-13 and were poised to be a high seed in the NCCAA National Championships. However, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic caused Grace’s season to be cut short.
For head coach Dan Davis and his team, getting back on the court has helped push away many of the distractions from the past few months. “During those couple hours of practice, things are about as normal as there is,” Davis said.
The excitement of starting the season is multiplied for Davis, who is entering his third year with the program. Davis believes there is tremendous potential with this year’s roster. “From a talent standpoint since I’ve been here, this is our most talented roster from top to bottom.”
In what Davis called “one of the most challenging years from a coaching standpoint,” (due to the pandemic) his task of replacing last year’s senior leader Vironnica Drake was not made any easier.
In Grace’s all-time record book, Drake finished her Grace career ranked first in scoring (1,981), fourth in rebounds (740) and seventh in assists (283).
A key player to replace Drake’s leadership role will be Kyannah Stull. Stull is “one of the top three players in the league,” according to Davis.
Stull enjoyed a breakout year last season with 18.8 points and 1.8 steals per game. The senior guard was named to the league’s Preseason All-League Team.
Joining her in the backcourt will be fellow All-League honoree Kamryn Hostetler. She is entering her third year as the starting point guard for Grace. Davis expects the offense to open up with her comfort in his system. “Kam knows what I expect as far as how to run the team and lead the team,” Davis added.
Kaylie Warble and Maddie Ryman also return after seeing big minutes last year. Warble is one of four seniors on the squad and has the ability to anchor Grace from the paint on both ends of the court.
Ryman enjoyed a successful freshman season and is set to continue her role as an offensive spark. She produced 8.5 points per game off the bench last year.
Senior Melissa Goss received glowing praise from Davis for her attitude and leadership skills on and off the court. “Mel [Goss] is somebody that doesn’t always show up in the box score, but she brings so much to our locker room,” Davis said.
Also back to the squad are junior Olivia Pearson and sophomore Kate Schlatter. The duo give Grace experience and a veteran presence in the backcourt.
With the graduation of five players, the Lady Lancers welcomed one of the biggest freshman classes in Davis’s coaching career.
The class consists of seven new faces, each who has a chance to contribute this season in Davis’s eyes. Davis was excited with the potential and length that this year’s class brings to the team.
Kiersten Poor and Kenzie McMahon have especially impressed during preseason and are fighting for starting spots, according to Davis.
“Kiersten [Poor] is the best overall kid that I have recruited from a pure basketball standpoint. She is very coachable and mature. From day one she is somebody who can score in a variety of ways and play several positions,” Davis added.
McMahon, a forward out of Bellmont High School, is a versatile player that gives the Lady Lancers length in the paint that they were lacking last season. “Defensively she is just very very sound. Offensively she has the ability to contribute as well,” Davis said.
Sarah O’Day is a lengthy guard from Plainfield High School; the 5-foot-11 guard will fit Grace’s aggressive style well with her defensive range.
Coming out of NorthWood, Kate Rulli was a late spring signing that gives Grace depth at the center position.
Kaylee Patton, Carissa Wiegman and Kiara Gill round out the incoming class that Davis said is loaded with potential. “They have so much room to grow and get better; not just four years from now but this year. It’s exciting,” Davis remarked.
Despite the influx of youth that Grace will be dealing with this season, Davis expects a lot from his freshmen.
“I’m excited for the year and for this team’s potential. This team is nowhere near their potential yet. There is a very high ceiling for them,” Davis said.
Although the hopes of cutting down the nets in March will still be there, Davis wants his players to be grounded in the moment this season. “Everyone experienced something being taken away from them last year. A big focus this year is to not take anything for granted,” Davis said.
The Lady Lancers kick off their season on Monday 7 p.m. at Grace Christian. Grace is scheduled to play its first four games on the road before the home opener against No. 22 Indiana Tech on Nov. 7.