With the return of three prominent players from last year’s 21-5 squad, experience is a strength for the Franklin College women’s basketball team.
But so is youth.
Six of the Grizzlies’ 12 players are freshmen, and two will start in tonight’s season-opener against visiting Denison.
Second-year coach Jennifer Temple can’t wait to see what they can do.
“They don’t play like freshmen, so that’s kind of a strength for us, because no one knows really anything about them right now, which is exciting for us going into a game,” Temple said. “I know how the upperclassmen will react in a first-game scenario, but you want to see how your freshmen will do and how they’re going to react to the game.”
Projected to finish second in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference in a preseason vote of league coaches, the Grizzlies — who were runners-up last season — will lean on veteran players in their bid for the HCAC title.
Leading the way are junior center Lindsay Dall, senior guard Krista Schott and junior forward Nichole Thompson. Dall averaged 9.5 points per game last season, and Schott averaged 8.6 points and dished out a team-high 89 assists.
Thompson, a Greenwood graduate, averaged 8.1 points last season in a reserve role.
But she will be in the starting lineup tonight, along with Dall and Schott, and freshman guards Mandy Fisher (Mooresville) and Lauren DeSutter (Tri-West).
Fisher was an honorable mention All-State selection last year and was part of four sectional championship teams at Mooresville. DeSutter broke nine school records at Tri-West and averaged 22.3 points per game her senior year.
Besides those players, the Grizzlies expect major contributions from sophomore forward Katie Brewer, a Butler transfer who is nursing an injury. When healthy, she is expected to start in certain match-up situations.
“Our strengths will be a combination of things,” Temple said. “I think our defense is very good. I think we can be really big and tall if I want to put a big lineup out there. So I think we’re going to be a tough match-up.
“A lot of teams tried to take away our inside game last year, which is just as strong this year, but now we have outside shooters, so they’re going go have to guard us outside, as well.
“So I think we have more strengths.”
As a result, Temple is confident the Grizzlies — who were 15-3 in league play last year — have everything they need to challenge for the HCAC Tournament title and automatic NCAA Division III Tournament bid that comes with it.
“We are definitely a contender for conference champs,” Temple said. “We want to host the tournament. That’s one of our big goals this year, so hopefully we’ll be able to achieve that.”