Tried to get these done over the weekend … but ended up realizing I had WAY more to say about KCAC women’s hoops than I originally imagined. So here we go:
STERLING (2009-10: 27-5 overall, 13-1 KCAC, 1st)
Coach: Lonnie Kruse, 30th year
Go-to: Megan Patrick, Jr. 6-0, Forward
Outlook: The Warriors lost KCAC player of the year Cathryn Wiebe, but return four starters off last year’s title team, including All-KCAC picks Megan Patrick and Britany Gasper. Patrick’s younger sister, 5-10 freshman guard Laura Patrick, should contribute right away. Sterling is trying for its 29th straight winning season under coach Lonnie Kruse, who enters his 30th year. Kruse seemed pretty relaxed when I talked to him a couple of weeks ago – rejuvenated even – and I think that not teaching and not having athletic director has really opened up some things for him, time-wise, to work with his team like he wasn’t able to in the past. Which is amazing, considering the success they’ve had. KCAC coaches, you’re warned.
KANSAS WESLEYAN (22-8 overall, 15-3 2nd)
Coach: Gordon Reimer, 7th year
Go-to: LaCole Wilkinson, Sr., 5-3, Guard
Outlook: The Coyotes are coming off back-to-back NAIA Division II tournament berths and return All-KCAC players LaCole Wilkinson and Stephanie Frost. Reimer called Frost, a 5-11 forward, “probably the best athlete I’ve coached at KWU.” Nice compliment. The Coyotes also added one of the Jayhawk Conference’s best shooters from two seasons ago in Katie Novack, who played at Garden City Community College and then one year at Southern Nazarene before going to KWU. Crazy story – I covered Novack in high school when she played for Holcomb and I was the sports editor at the Garden City Telegram … which would have come right after I covered junior guard Tessa Giammona’s big brother, Jared, at Mendocino College in Ukiah, Calif., where I was also SE. Jared was a BALLER and the Giammonas had deep athletic roots – Uncle Louie played for the Philadelphia Eagles for their other uncle – Dick Vermeil. Crazy.
SOUTHWESTERN (22-9 overall, 13-5 3rd)
Coach: Dave Denly, 13th year
Go-to: Jasmine Manuel, Sr., 5-10, Guard/Forward
Outlook: Coach Dave Denly has never finished worse than fourth in the KCAC entering his 13th season with the Moundbuilders. Senior guard Jasmine Manuel averaged 13.2 points and 4 rebounds last season on her way to being named All- KCAC, and 5-11 senior forward Tylar Hartfield (8.2 points, 8.3 rebounds) is one of the league’s best post players after coming back from a devastating knee injury a couple of years ago.
BETHEL (16-11 overall, 12-6 4th)
Coach: Mark Fox, 6th year
Go-to: Angela Wood, Sr., 5-7, Guard
Outlook: The Threshers return four starters off a team that went 16-11 and tied a school record for wins. Senior guard Angela Wood, a Wichita Northwest product, is Bethel’s top returning scorer at 10.8 points. All-American Hannah Blackburn and her 14.5 points and 10.4 rebounds will be difficult to replace.
OTTAWA (7-23 overall, 5-13 t-6th)
Coach: Bruce Tate, 4th year
Go-to: Chris Jackson, Sr., 6-3, Sr.
Outlook: Point guard Kiki Smith led the KCAC in assists last year at 4.1, and coach Bruce Tate added Missouri Southern transfer Tessa Porter, a 5-11 junior forward who he thinks should be the team’s best player. Braves have 8 of top 10 players back from last season.
FRIENDS (15-15 overall, 10-8 5th)
Coach: RaeAnne Booth, 1st year
Go-to: Tavi Polley-Davis, Sr. 5-7, Guard
Outlook: Senior Tavi Polley-Davis is a two-time All-KCAC defensive selection and is one of two returning starters, along with Breanne Selves. First-year coach RaeAnne Booth brought in Division I transfer Raneisha Hunter (Nicholls State) after Hunter played two years at Butler Community College. I’d consider this season a success for Booth and the Falcons if they could finish in the middle of the pack – but 1st year coaches usually get flambayed in this league.
TABOR (6-23 overall, 5-13 t-6th)
Coach: Shawn Winter, 4th year
Go-to: Lacie Ward, Sr., 5-8, Guard
Outlook: Dana College transfer Lacie Ward was an All-Jayhawk East selection for Coffeyville two seasons ago. The Bluejays are helped immensely by the return of 6-1 forward Gina Hullet, who was averaging 10 points and 6 rebounds last season before a knee injury ended her year 13 games in.
SAINT MARY (7-23, 5-13 t-6th)
Coach: Mike Basler, 7th year
Go-to: Samantha Ciani, Sr., 6-0, Forward
Outlook: Spires return four starters and eight of 10 players, including All-KCAC forward Samantha Ciani, a 6-foot senior forward that led Saint Mary last season with 13.6 points and 9 rebounds. Seventh-year coach Michael Basler thinks his freshman class is one of the most talented in Saint Mary history. Basler had a great quote about his group in that they “make him not as timid to go to Sterling.” Good stuff. Ciani showed last year that she’s as good of a post as there is in the league.
BETHANY (9-21 overall, 5-13 t-6th)
Coach: Jim Campion, 3rd year
Go-to: Cathy Wade, Sr., 5-10, Forward
Outlook: Top scorer and All-KCAC pick Rhys Pihl (18.8 points) decided to transfer to Fort Hays State. In Pihl’s absence, senior forward and honorable-mention All-KCAC selection Cathy Wade (12.3 points, 6.2 rebounds) will have to shoulder most of the scoring load. Losing Pihl kills them, but you can’t blame her for wanting to take a shot at a higher level.
McPHERSON (6-21 overall, 3-15 10th)
Coach: Cy Rolfs, 1st year
Go-to: Kristen Ozbun, Sr., 5-6, Guard
Outlook: First-year coach Cy Rolfs takes over team that went 6-21 last season and finished last in KCAC. Rolfs said he got a late start on recruiting, but returns top scorer Kristen Ozbun, who averaged 13.4 points and was an honorable mention All-KCAC selection. Rolfs got a late start on recruiting so it could be a rough first year. However, McPherson’s athletic department has done an incredible 180 as of late, which is making it a little easier to get talented athletes to come to school there. He could turn it around eventually. Another note – Rolfs just graduated from college three years ago. Doesn’t really matter how old he is to be the coach, just FYI. He looks young.
Tell me if I missed something. -TA