With the 2013-2014 season on the horizon, the St. Catharine Lady Patriots basketball team looks to capitalize on their NAIA National Tournament experience.
Just one year ago, the St. Catharine Lady Patriots kicked off a season that would make school history and end in a heartbreaking loss to Westminster College in the NAIA National Tournament.
With their dreams of a deep run in the national tournament dashed in the first round, the Lady Patriots enter the 2013-2014 season hungry for a return trip to the top.
However, that trip will not come without its set of challenges; the Patriots graduated two NAIA All-Americans (Janae Howard and Reilly Porier) that contributed a combined average of 36 points and 20 rebounds per game.
“It’s hard to replace those numbers,” Head Coach Lena Bramblett, who enters her 12th season at the helm, said.
However, Bramblett was quick to comment, “We are senior loaded, and this group works extremely hard.”
The Patriots return several key pieces to the National Tournament puzzle, including their entire backcourt, led by senior point guard Machera Calhoun (Fort Myers, Fla.), who has been in the starting lineup since she arrived on campus her freshman year.
“Machera gives us a spark, she plays hard and is extremely smart; you couldn’t ask for a better leader,” Bramblett said.
Returning to join Calhoun in the Patriots’ guard-heavy lineup will be Carol-Ruiz Lopez (Fort Myers, Fla.), Heather Sandlin (Florence), Stacie Shrout (Florence) and Cora Moore (Louisville). However, the backcourt doesn’t end there, as the Patriots will be sending a number of freshmen to the floor, including Sasha Ruiz-Lopez (Fort Myers, Fla.), who ended last season early with an injury.
In addition, the Patriots will welcome Lexus Edwards (Lexington), Kourtney Belcher (Hustonville) and Nickoa Jackson (Louisville) to the Patriot backcourt lineup.
“We will be guard heavy,” Bramblett said. “However, these kids have been there, and our freshmen will learn. With Heather being a strong vocal leader and Machera being Machera, our team will be fine.”
In the frontcourt, the Patriots do return a key player in Rianne Hofstraat (Netherlands); last season, Hofstraat was the Patriot work- horse, averaging 33.7 minutes per game, a team high, as well as shooting .365 from long range.
“Rianne has to be a big contributor for us this year,” Bramblett said. “She is a finesse post, nothing fancy, but works extremely hard and has dedicated herself to getting better in the offseason.”
With Hofstraat being the only returning forward, the Patriots brought in 6’ 2” transfer Brooke Gee (Ashland) from NCAA Division II Concord University, and freshman post Ryan Cain (Lancaster).
“Brooke is going to be a big help to us in the fact that you can’t teach size, but she will take some time to develop,” Bramblett said. “Experience will be the thing to happen to her.”
With the 6’ 2” trio of Gee, Hofstraat and Cain, the Patriots will look for ways to score inside and replace nearly 20 rebounds per game.
It is no mystery that the Patriots have an uphill battle in front of them by playing in what some would consider the toughest conference in the country.
In fact, six out of the nine teams will most likely be picked in the pre-season top 30, with the Patriots predicted to finish eighth in the conference.
“Preseason predictions are what they are, just a preseason prediction,” Bramblett said. “We will have no surprises; we know that every team that we play will be tough and we can’t take nights off.”
In fact, in the month of January the Patriots will face only one team that will not be ranked in the top 30, the University of Rio Grande, “but even they will be better this season,” Bramblett said. “We have a committed team and understand that the conference in which we play is difficult, but we can’t have excuses. This team must buy into the system and play hard in order to have success.”
The Patriots kicked off their season yesterday with a scrimmage as they travelled to Midway College.
The Patriots will return home tomorrow at 6 p.m. for a scrimmage against Kentucky State University.