Whatever success the Franklin College women’s basketball team enjoys this year, coach Dana Haggenjos knows what to thank: Defense.
“Defense is the cherry on the top. If you can be solid defensively, then you have a chance to win,” said Haggenjos, who’s in her second season with the Grizzlies. “That’s kind of where we found ourselves last year.
“Although we struggled offensively at times, our defense kept us in games.”
The Grizzlies are coming off their seventh straight winning season, having posted a record of 14-11 overall and 12-6 in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference. They finished fourth in the league standings.
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In a preseason poll of HCAC coaches, defending champion Transylvania has been voted the favorite. It received six of the 10 first-place votes. Bluffton was second, Hanover third and Franklin fourth.
“You can’t under-prepare for anyone in this conference based upon whether they are undefeated or haven’t won a game, so we have to have the mindset that we can beat anyone,” Haggenjos said. “We have an experienced team that is capable of controlling the tempo of the game.
“Our guards are our cornerstone. They are all aggressive players who provide versatility by being able to play multiple spots on the floor and play up-in-your face defense.”
The Grizzlies return four starters, including the team’s only senior, Katie Brewer. The 6-foot-1 Roncalli graduate averaged 9.2 points per game and 7 rebounds. She also recorded a league-leading 56 blocked shots.
“Katie is showing great confidence out there, and she’s a great leader,” Haggenjos said.
Over the past two seasons, Brewer has been plagued with back and ankle injuries, but appears ready to go.
“Over the summer I developed myself physically and mentally,” she said. “I want to be a better leader vocally and by example. I don’t want to miss any days, so I’m just going to lay it all out there.
“Last year I was thinking too much and not playing my game. I want a championship. We all have the same goal.”
Also returning is second-team All-HCAC junior guard Lauren DeSutter, who averaged 10.1 ppg to go with 60 assists and 36 steals.
Joining her in the backcourt are junior point guard Mandy Fisher, who had a team-high 73 assists and 34 steals, and sophomore Kelsey Smith.
On the outside, junior Kayle Comer is the team’s primary 3-point threat.
“She worked even harder during the summer to be a better shooter behind the arc,” Haggenjos said. “If the shot is there, she’s going to take it.”
There are six newcomers to the team, including four freshman, one junior and one sophomore transfer.
“I don’t think you’ll be able to tell whether they are upperclassmen or underclassmen when they hit the floor,” Haggenjos said. “They’ve added a lot to the mix and are blending in. I don’t think we have a weak link.
“We have 13 players on our roster, and they will all be ready to play on game day.”
The Grizzlies open the season Sunday at Trine.
5;Emily Alfrey;Jr.;F;5-11;Triton Central
24;Mattyson Robison;Fr.;G;5-4;Clinton Prairie
34;Amber May;Jr.;C/F;5-9;Franklin Central
Head coach: Dana Haggenjos
Assistant coach: Lauren McRoberts