Uneventful moments have been scarce the past few months for the woman hired to be Franklin College’s third women’s basketball coach in four years.
Mooresville native Dana Haggenjos watched her Grizzlies struggle through a pair of three-game losing streaks during the 24-game regular season, only to see them respond each time with inspired play.
Haggenjos likens her first head coaching job to a roller-coaster ride — one possessing even sharper turns once the coach became pregnant with her and husband Tony’s first child (due in July).
“The season in general has been kind of crazy. New job. New environment. And we’re expecting our first child,” said Haggenjos, previously an assistant women’s basketball coach at DePauw University for 10 seasons.
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“But it’s been an easy transition with the players. They were all on board from Day 1, so it’s been about setting our expectations as coaches. It’s just a great group. We have kids who all know how to work hard.”
Franklin College takes a 14-10 record and No. 3 seed into Friday night’s first-round game against sixth-seeded Rose-Hulman at the annual Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament, hosted by Transylvania.
The Grizzlies won both regular-season matchups against the Engineers, winning a 56-53 road battle on Jan. 14 and defeating them 41-36 at home Feb. 18.
Averaging 58.6 points a game clearly has been a team effort, considering eight Grizzlies players will take the court Friday night producing anywhere from 4.7 to 10 points a game.
The 10 is property of 5-foot-5 sophomore guard Lauren DeSutter, a Tri-West High School product who’s also been good for 2.5 assists, 2 rebounds and 1.5 steals a game this season.
Falling in line behind DeSutter are former Greenwood forward Nichole Thompson (9.5), junior forward Katie Brewer (9.0), sophomore guard Kayle Comer (6.8) and Lindsey Dall (5.7).
The balance and depth continue in the form of former Center Grove guard Madi Kolthoff (4.9), sophomore guard Mandy Fisher (4.8 ppg) and freshman Kelsey Smith (4.7).
Franklin as a team is shooting just under 38 percent from the floor and holding opponents to an even chillier 37.3 percent.
“We’ve kind of struggled offensively all season, which has been kind of frustrating because we see them shoot in practice,” said Haggenjos, whose squad has been limited to 51 or fewer points on six occasions.
“I’ve told them they are a top 25 team if they learn that they can play with anyone in the country. Right now it’s a confidence thing. I’m not sure we’re there yet, but we’re a very young team.”
The coach’s 15-player roster features only three seniors — the 5-10 Thompson, former Waldron High School guard Brittany Elliott and Dall, a 5-10 forward/center from Brownsburg.
It’s a class that was coached by Kim Eiler as freshmen, Jennifer Lodge Temple as sophomores and juniors, and now Haggenjos as seniors.
“It’s definitely made our team very open to new decisions in life, but I think we’ve done real well,” Thompson said. “It’s been a fun year, and we’re trying to have as much fun as possible now that the season is winding down.”
The Grizzlies own a three-game winning streak, having closed the regular season with victories against Earlham, Rose-Hulman and Defiance. A win Friday and Franklin College has its first four-game winning streak of the season.
“These last three games have all been nail-biters that we pulled through, so there is now a definite attitude of, ‘OK, let’s go win this game,'” Haggenjos said. “I think we’re playing some of our best basketball right now. As a coaching staff we’re really excited.”
At Transylvania University
(5) Manchester (13-12) vs. (4) Bluffton (17-8), 6 p.m.
(6) Rose-Hulman (13-12) vs. (3) Franklin College (14-10), 8 p.m.
(1) Transylvania (24-1) vs. Game 1 winner, 3 p.m.
(2) Hanover College (17-8) vs. Game 2 winner, 5 p.m.
Championship game, 2 p.m.