Clarksville, Ark.-The 2008-2009 Lady Eagles are looking forward to bouncing back from a difficult season a year ago behind a handful of experienced players and a talented freshmen class.
“We are looking forward and not looking back,” said head coach Christina Jost, who is entering her third year at Ozarks. “We want to improve and keep taking steps forward and build upon that. We have a clean slate this season. They have really good chemistry and spirits are high. They are excited to get the season going. Our group of freshmen have made a big difference, they are excited about playing college basketball.”
Ozarks returns three starters from last season’s 1-24 campaign. Seniors Olivia Fisher, Chandra Briggs and Emma Cantele will play major roles in helping Ozarks rebound from last year’s tough finish. The 5-foot-11 Fisher won the American Southwest Conference’s rebounding title a year ago after averaging 9.3 rebounds per game. She also chipped in with a 9.9 points per game average. She finished the season with three double-doubles, including a 25-point, 18-rebound effort against Texas Lutheran University. An Honorable Mention All-Conference pick in 2007-08, Fisher is again expected to be among the most productive forwards in the league.
“Olivia has shown her leadership on the court by her dedication and work ethic,” said Jost. “She is in the gym after our practice every night. She goes 110 percent all of the time. Our newcomers see that and the returners see that in her. I think she will have a great year and achieve great things. She is a tenacious rebounder. She has a nose for the ball, but she also hustles after each rebound.”
Helping Fisher around the basket will be sophomore Molly Patterson, senior Kasie Osmond and freshman Sabrina Goddard. Patterson, 5-foot-11, showed a soft touch around the hoop in her freshman campaign, averaging nearly four points and three rebounds per game. Osmond, 5-foot-10, is back after a two-year absence from the court. The athletic Goddard has a tremendous upside, according to Jost. At 6-foot-1, Goddard can cause matchup problems with her versatility.
“Molly gives us a presence inside,” said Jost. “She has worked hard on learning new post moves. I think she will continue to progress this season. Our other post players can give us a lift, too.”
In Jost’s fast-paced offensive style, guards play the ever-important role of creating transition points. And after battling depth issues a year ago, that shouldn’t be a problem as Jost has loaded her squad with the necessary numbers to compete in a game’s entirety. The guard rotation will include seniors Briggs, Cantele and Savannah Carter, junior Kristyn Shinn and sophomores Ally Goddard and Kayla Quertermous. Freshmen Lacey Philips, Ashley Teague, Danielle Froggatt, Alison Villines, April Young and Lacey Mainer provide Ozarks with plenty of offensive firepower.
Briggs started in 18 games last season at the point guard position and finished second on the team in assists (2.3). Briggs had a pair of 13-point outbursts last season. Cantele started in 16 games a year ago and hit 33 percent from the three-point line. The three-point specialist ended the year averaging 5.2 points per game. Shinn saw action in 22 games in 2007-2008 and provides a spark in the backcourt. Carter excels on the defensive end.
“Chandra did a good job last season for us,” said Jost. “She hustles and I think she will have a good senior season. Emma has played through some injuries. She has done well in practice. She has shown us she wants to play by working hard in practice. Savannah is a work horse on the court. She will provide sparks when we need it. Kristyn is a little sparkplug, too. You put her in and she gets things going. She does whatever we ask of her.”
Goddard started in eight games her freshman season and ranked second on the team in three-point percentage (37.0) and third in three-pointers (20). Quertermous is another three-point threat, leading the team in three-point percentage (37.5) and finishing with 24 threes, second-most on the team.
“Ally is an excellent shooter and worked hard on her defensive game over the summer and it is showing on the court,” said Jost. “Kayla is all over the place. She plays hard no matter the situation. She will provide us with some outside shooting.”
With an abundance of freshmen guards expected to see playing time, Jost doesn’t see a need for simplifying the offense.
“We are not going to steer too much away from our offensive philosophy because of our youthfulness,” said Jost. “We still want to push the ball. We will stick with our running and transition game. We will have more of a presence this year on the inside, so our three-point game may diminish a little bit. But we will still shoot a lot of three-pointers. Our returners need to lead our freshman while they are on the court.”
With added size and plenty of outside shooters within the freshmen class, Jost is not only excited for the year, but also for the future.
“The freshmen class brings a freshness and excitement in playing,” said Jost. “We have a lot of talent. I think they will make a big impact right away. I think in the next four years you will see them take this program where it should be. We have a lot of weapons on the outside. There are some players in the freshmen class that if they get hot, they can put up some points.”
The competitive ASC, which includes the defending NCAA III national champions, will no doubt challenge Jost’s young team, but it is a league believed to be wide-open this season.
“I think the ASC will have a different look this year,” said Jost. “A lot of the teams lost some of their best players to graduation. I think both divisions will have a different feel to it.”
Ozarks will begin the season November 18 in Arkadelphia against Henderson State University.