Altoona-Midway High School girls’ basketball coach Lauren Lewallen took over the helm a year ago, inherited a new team she knew little about, and saw the Lady Jets struggle through a winless 2016-17 campaign.
With a full year under her belt, Coach Lewallen is ready to see a new and improved Lady Jet squad in 2017-18.
“Last season when I took over here, we had a predominantly older team, with only a few underclassmen,” Lewallen noted. “This year I’m very excited, because we have four freshmen coming out for the team, to balance out with the five upperclassmen we have.”
While nine players filling out the roster is not an ideal situation, Lewallen noted they only had seven girls on last year’s squad, so at least they are moving in the right direction.
“We are still in a growing period with our numbers … as well as with our skills and ability,” Lewallen said. “But the girls have worked very hard so far in practice, and (assistant coach) Stevie Wilson and I are really excited to see what this team has to bring to the court this season.”
Only two seniors dot this year’s roster, 5-3 Jessica Williams and 5-3 Ashleigh Baker. Both are expected to start for the Lady Jets, along with 5-6 junior Michala Kinzle, the team’s returning leading scorer from a year ago.
Also projected to start this season is 5-6 junior Anna Pierce, who had to sit out last season with a knee injury. Caitlin Maxwell, a 5-3 junior, also started last season as a sophomore.
However, Lewallen indicated she would start a freshman if she deserved the spot, and so far has had high praise for 5-7 newcomer Natalie Davis. Also drawing preseason mention was Ashley Reynolds. Rounding out the roster are fellow freshmen Sophia Willard and Thaleana Hill.
The Lady Jets will open the 2017-18 season on the road Dec. 1, traveling to Hartford. Altoona-Midway does not have a home game until after Christmas break, when they play host to Chetopa on Jan. 5.
Lewallen predicts St. Paul will again be the class of the Three Rivers League, but expects the picture to improve for her Lady Jets.
“We know that everyone is not going to turn around completely overnight,” Lewallen said, “but this group of girls always makes sure to be respectful of themselves, each other, and whoever else is a part of the game. No matter our numbers, every player starts and finishes each game with every ounce of effort they have.
“Coach Wilson and I are expecting them to work hard, play with determination, and never give up on themselves or each other.”