A feeling of optimism has filled the air for
enthusiasts of Lady Cougar basketball. An experienced group of players
that include four seniors return for another campaign after registering
the program's second straight trip to the NCCAA National Tournament and
winning their second consecutive East Region championship last year.
The Lady Cougars ended the 1998-1999 regular season on a three-game winning streak, and followed that up with a pair of huge road victories over Nyack (NY) College and top-seeded Roberts Wesleyan (NY) College in the NCCAA East Region Tournament. MVNC's win streak reached six games with a win over Indiana Wesleyan University in the opening round of the NCCAA National Tournament. The Lady Cougars fell in their next contest to eventual national champion, Lee (TN) University, finishing their season with a 16-14 overall mark.
Second year head coach Steve Gregory likes what he has seen over the course of the last few months. Gregory feels that his well-seasoned players are ready to step up and meet the challenge of a very rigorous and challenging schedule.
"Our upperclassmen have worked extremely hard over the course of the summer in anticipation of a great season," said Gregory. "After finishing out last season on a six-game roll that propelled our team to another NCCAA East Region championship and a berth into the National Tournament, my squad is poised and ready to take the next step and compete for an AMC championship."
"I have a lot of confidence in our senior leadership this season," added Gregory. "Anne Nussbaum, Shelly Aldrich, Amie Bibby and Holly Riggle have all made solid contributions over the course of their three-year tenure. They have all worked extremely hard and adjusted well to the offensive and defensive schemes that have been put in place. The time is now for this team to break out and show MVNC fans what they have been patiently waiting for: a fast-paced team that finds creative ways to score out of both their offense and defense."
Nussbaum is the focal point of the Lady Cougar attack. The 5-6 floor general will run the show for MVNC and will be counted on to provide much needed perimeter punch. The Mt. Vernon High School standout averaged just over ten points per outing last season, while dishing the ball out for just over four assists per game.
Aldrich will start at the shooting guard spot. The 5-7 guard has impressed her coach in the pre-season with her improved perimeter shooting. Aldrich averaged 11 points a game and was shooting over 37% from the three-point line before being sidelined with an injury and having to sit out most of the season. The Marion native will also see time as the back up point guard this season.
Bibby will see considerable time at the guard and forward positions this season. Gregory likes her defensive skills coupled with her athletic ability, that make her a real threat. At 5-10, Bibby is also a solid rebounder. The Mt. Vernon native and former Danville High School star pulled down almost seven rebounds a contest last year to go along with ten points an outing. Bibby's continued improvement should be a huge contribution to the Lady Cougar squad.
Riggle started 18 games for MVNC last season and has become a "hired gun" for the Lady Cougars. Gregory feels that Riggle's biggest asset is her perimeter shooting ability, but also points out that she brings a lot of intangibles to the Lady Cougar line-up. The 5-6 Urbana product tossed in almost eight points a game last season at the guard position and will be counted on to step up her point production in 1999-2000.
Juniors Deanna Kilpatrick and Kelly Walters (Franklin, PA) return along with sophomore Angie Trainer (Washington C.H., OH). Kilpatrick was MVNC's second-leading scorer last season at just over 11 points a game and third-leading rebounder, hauling down 5.7 carroms per contest. The 6-1 forward also converted 63-of-187 of her three-point attempts for 34 percent. The Warsaw native will be relied upon heavily to increase her point and rebounding production with the loss of senior Tara Seiter. Seiter was an NAIA Division II All-American and MVNC's all-time leading scorer (1,718) and rebounder (952).
Walters (6-0) will see time at the center position, while Trainer (5-10) will start at the guard position. Trainer was named to the conference all-freshmen team a year ago and averaged 9.8 points and 3.9 rebounds per game.
First-year players include: Jai Holland (Mt. Vernon), Jenni Davis (Cardington), Amy Davis (Elida), Stacy Jennings (Springfield), and Anna Hoam (Bellville).
Gregory expects Jenni to see action as a back up point guard and shooting guard this season. The 5-6 guard averaged just over 17 points a game last season for the Lady Pirates and has shown a deft perimeter touch to go along with good one-on-one moves. Holland returns to basketball after a three-year hiatus from the sport. Holland has spent the last three seasons playing collegiate volleyball and will see time in the post for the Lady Cougars. At 5-10, Holland is a real threat to pop out on the perimeter and knock down three-pointers when a favorable match-up presents itself.
"Lady Cougar fans will be treated to a squad that is aggressive defensively and makes quick transitions to keep the opponents off-guard," said Gregory. "The style of play will be fast-paced and action-packed."
The schedule will be very competitive and features one of the most challenging conferences in the nation.
"The AMC is one of the toughest conferences in the country," said Gregory. "Walsh and Shawnee State have won the NAIA Division II National Championship the last two years. Naturally, our conference gets a lot of respect because of it."