Riley Achenbach’s importance to the Franklin College women’s basketball team extends beyond her 5.7 scoring average of a year ago.
As the Grizzlies’ lone returning starter, the senior guard will be counted on to help bring a young team along during the 2017-18 season.
Achenbach, who along with guard Kelsey Smith is one of only two seniors on fourth-year coach Dana Haggenjos’ roster, is a coach on and off the floor for the Grizzlies.
“It stems from my high school career. I always wanted what’s best for my team,” said Achenbach, a Shelbyville graduate. “We have a lot of leaders on our team, and they’re more lead-by-example.
“I’m more vocal. I get a lot of things from my mom (Tammy), and that’s one of them.”
Haggenjos brings back only 26 percent of the team’s points from last season’s 14-12 squad. Nonetheless, six of her returnees logged at least 140 total minutes of court time during the season, and another, sophomore guard/forward Krista Sutherland, had just under 100.
Achenbach and Smith are expected to be backcourt fixtures for the Grizzlies, along with sophomore point guard Taylor Baxter. Frontcourt players vying for a spot in the starting lineup for tonight’s opener at home against DePauw include 5-9 sophomores Erin Bradley and Melissa Beer, Sutherland and freshmen Maddy Gary, and Bayleigh Walker.
Gary is a 6-footer who played at Indian Creek.
Another Johnson County product, freshman guard and Greenwood Christian Academy product Katie Cruse, also is looking to make an impact. Other top newcomers are forward Isabella Ratliff and guard Lindsey Freije, while junior returnees Maddie O’Day and Mallory Cast averaged 2.4 and 2.2 points, respectively.
Franklin College scored 58.6 points a game last season and produced 11.5 steals per game.
It’s at the defensive end where Achenbach (1.3 spg) hopes to set the tone for the Grizzlies.
“Riley is kind of the mom of our team, a great leader who excels at everything she does,” Haggenjos said. “We rely on her from a lot of standpoints. I don’t think you’re going to see her average 10 to 12 points. When she’s playing well, she’s playing well at the defensive end.”
Nov. 29;at Trine;6 p.m.
Dec. 2;Hanover;1 p.m.
Dec. 6;Anderson;7:30 p.m.
Dec. 9;at Defiance;2 p.m.
Dec. 16;Bluffton;2 p.m.
Dec. 19;Wittenberg;2 p.m.
Dec. 21;Albion;7:30 p.m.
Dec. 29-30;at Capitol tournament;TBA
Jan. 3;at Manchester;7:30 p.m.
Jan. 6;at Mount St. Joseph;1 p.m.
Jan. 10;Rose-Hulman;7:30 p.m.
Jan. 13;Earlham;4 p.m.
Jan. 17;at Transylvania;7:30 p.m.
Jan. 20;at Hanover,4 p.m.
Jan. 24;at Anderson;7:30 p.m.
Jan. 27;Defiance;2 p.m.
Jan. 31;Manchester;7:30 p.m.
Feb. 3;at Earlham;4 p.m.
Feb. 7;at Rose-Hulman,7:30 p.m.
Feb. 10;Mount St. Joseph;1 p.m.
Feb. 14;Transylvania;7:30 p.m.
Feb. 17;at Bluffton;2 p.m.
Head coach: Dana Haggenjos
Last season: 14-12
Key returnees: Riley Achenbach, Sr., G; Melissa Beer, So., F; Erin Bradley, So., F; Taylor Baxter, So., G; Mallory Cast, Jr., G; Maddie O’Day, Jr., G; Kelsey Smith, Sr., G; Krista Sutherland, So., G/F.
Fresh faces: Katie Cruse, Fr., G; Lindsey Freije, Fr., G; Maddy Gary, Fr., F; Isabella Ratliff, Fr., G; Brayleigh Walker, Fr., F.
Outlook: With only one starter returning in Achenbach, there will be plenty of opportunities for playing time among the other Grizzlies players. Guards Smith and Baxter also are back, though coach Haggenjos also is excited about the frontcourt players looking to crack the starting lineup. The Grizzlies do get to experience most of their growing pains at home by playing six of their first eight games at the Spurlock Center.
Coachspeak: “We have a good blend of some old and some new. We have a pretty experienced backcourt with Achenbach and Smith, and our defense is going to be very strong this season. I’m more excited about our frontcourt than I have the past two years. We’re undersized, but we have strong, blue-collar kids.” — Haggenjos