The pieces are in place for a strong season for Grace’s women’s basketball team in 2015-16. How those pieces will fit together is another question.
The Lady Lancers are coming off three winning seasons in four years under head coach Scott Blum, including last year’s 18-17 mark. Grace has also won back-to-back NCCAA Midwest Regional championships, enjoying a period of unparalleled success in the program’s 39 seasons.
The team is replacing seven players from last season’s squad, including All-American Allison Kauffman who graduated No. 2 in career points and career rebounds for Grace.
But Blum has brought in several talented newcomers to fill those gaps, making for a season marked by anticipation.
“This is going to be an interesting year. We are optimistic but cautious at the same time for what this group can do,” Blum said. “We have the experience to be dangerous in the league, but we also have a lot of youth. Our success will depend on how we respond to the tough stretches that every team has. We need to turn tough losses into learning experiences, and this group has the mentality that can do that.”
Highlighting the returning group is the senior class of Gabby Miller (Bryant), Sarah Feasby, Kelsey Sule and Jesse Feitz. Miller is a four-year starter at the point guard position and averaged 7.7 points and 2.1 assists per game. Sule is a long-distance sharpshooter who hit 37 percent of her 3-pointers last year, Feasby brings athleticism to the post and shoots at a high percentage (56 percent), and Feitz adds length and rebounding talent to the frontcourt.
The senior captains—Miller, Sule and Feasby—will play an important role this season, according to Blum. “Each of the captains has a different personality. They’ll help us stay together through the tough times that every team goes through.”
On the court, the Lady Lancers hope to take on a different persona in 2015-16. With a fast, athletic roster at all five positions, Grace has plans to ramp up its playing speed. Whereas in years past the Lady Lancers were known for their interior muscle, Blum wants Grace to unleash its fastbreak attack on offense.
Ball State University transfer Haley Richardson instantly becomes one of the quicker post players in the Crossroads League. She brings tremendous length at 6-foot-3, an ability to guard multiple positions and the speed to outrun teams on the break. She will be counted on to be a primary scorer and rebounder for the Lady Lancers.
Joining Richardson, Feasby and Feitz in the post are juniors Chloe Pridgen and Hannah Adams as well as freshman Pam Miller (Warsaw).
“We want to push the ball this year and create easy baskets for our posts running the floor,” Blum said. “Not too many players in our league can keep up with our quicker posts, so we’re creating a lot of problems defensively for other teams.”
On the perimeter, Grace boasts a wealth of outside shooting threats. Kelsie Peterson returns for her sophomore season after posting 8.9 ppg to earn a spot on the Crossroads League All-Freshman Team. Junior Darian Patton led Grace with 82 assists in 2014-15, and Jenna Kieper played in 11 games last year.
The newcomers in the guard rotation bring offensive versatility to the lineup. Brooke Sugg graduated as the all-time leading scorer in Fishers High School history and drilled 10 3-pointers in a single game. Maycee Davis, Catherine Weaver and Lauren Godfrey give Blum a wealth of options at his disposal.
Blum believes the combination of improved outside shooting and athletic post play will create a more unpredictable offense than in the past. “We will be very athletic. Our outside shooting will be better, and we plan to run the ball to get some easy layups. We’ll get up and attack when we have the opportunity, but we also like to get into our set plays as well. It will be a balance.”
The Lady Lancers will be tested immediately during the nonleague season with five of their first seven games on the road. But Blum is confident that Grace is up for the challenge.
“We have a lot of returning talent already on the team and then we added some key pieces. They’ve gelled together very well and are meshing as a group, which is great to see,” Blum said. “I’m excited to see what this group can accomplish.”
The Lady Lancers begin their season on Saturday with a trip to Holy Cross at 1 p.m. Grace’s first home contest is on Oct. 28 against IU-South Bend at 7 p.m.