2013-2014 LADY BOBCATS’ BASKETBALL PREVIEW
The Lady ‘Cats are excited about their prospects for the 2013-14 season under long-time assistant and now Head Coach Becky Vest. Following a strong 2012-13 season with a 30-5 record and a Sweet 16 appearance in the National Tournament, the team will have five upperclassmen return to the court. Coach Vest states, “The team’s preseason has focused on toughness, communication and trust, in addition to some intensive early-morning workouts in the weight room.”
Seniors Emily Walker and Wren Wiebe, along with Juniors Kayla Kepler, Hannah Harman, and Tanner Merriman will bring their experience to the floor, as they seek to continue the team’s winning ways. Walker, who received Academic All-American and first-team All-Conference honors last season, is the Lady ‘Cats’ strongest all-around player. She is a fierce competitor and arguably one of the best defenders in the program’s history. Emily’s ability to guard any opposing player is key to the team’s success, and this season Walker also brings an improved offensive game to the court. As the heart and soul of the team, she imparts strong leadership to the players. Guard Kayla Kepler received All-Conference Honorable Mention last season and is a very intelligent player. She is a “gamer” and a constant threat to her defenders. Kayla excels at shooting three pointers, passing, and being the team’s best at getting to the basket off the dribble. Coach Vest refers to Kepler as the “floor general,” who consistently takes charge on the court! Wren Wiebe is a great role player with an exceptional work ethic. She is court-smart and takes pride in her defensive abilities. The team looks for Wiebe to be a team leader through her desire to always do the little things the right way. Merriman will solidify the team’s post game inside. She is very effective with her back to the basket and has improved rebounding skills to strengthen the Lady ‘Cats’ defense. The team will count on her consistency and hopes to afford Merriman more playing opportunities. Although Hannah Harman did not see extensive game time last season, she has been working hard toward adding court time at the post position. An added benefit of Harman is her ability to step out and hit three-pointers, making her more difficult to defend.
Joining the seniors is newcomer Brooke Lair. This 5’-9” forward comes off a season at University of Missouri-St. Louis, bringing grit and competitiveness to the team. In addition to her incredible work ethic, Lair has overcome numerous injuries, thereby encouraging her teammates to continually work toward improving their own game. Coach Vest sees Lair’s strength and competitive nature as a great addition to the team.
Sophomore forwards Payton Lakey and Brandy Uchtman have invested time and energy during the off season to step up various aspects of their game. Lakey is showing more confidence around the basket with improvements to her inside game and has made the transition to collegiate play. Uchtman is a great rebounder, three-point shooter, and also has the ability to post up down low. The coaches have high expectations for each player’s contributions this season.
Three award-winning freshmen round out this year’s Lady Cat roster: Forward Maggie McMenamy at 5’-6” from Crane, Missouri, Guard Alice Heinzler at 5’-6” of Republic, Missouri, and Guard Jeana Raper at 5’-7” from Nixa, Missouri. McMenamy and Heinzler both come from State Champion teams, bringing a winning attitude to the Lady ‘Cats. All three players were All-State and All-Conference selections at their respective high schools. McMenamy plays a lot bigger than her 5’-6” stature. She is a strong rebounder and good defender, who not only plays hard but is also court smart. Raper is an excellent outside shooter, who led her high school team on an amazing run to the quarter-finals in state. She is passionate about the game and very coachable. Heinzler completes the group with her competitive edge, great shooting, and court sense. Her abilities to handle the ball and play effective defense make her a valuable all-around player.
While the team will miss the outstanding play of Morgan Smith on the court, they are ecstatic to have her expertise on the sidelines as an Assistant Coach. Smith is an excellent student of the game, and that factor, combined with the fierce competitiveness she always brought to her game, will be a great asset to the program.
Coach Vest looks for this year’s team to place a strong emphasis on defense, which in turn will generate scoring opportunities. The Lady ‘Cats will spend much of their early season schedule facing strong non-conference opponents in order to prepare themselves for a successful conference season. Vest believes the key to their success this season will rely in part on how quickly the team gels and how effectively they develop their post play. The College of the Ozarks’ Lady ‘Cats are poised for success and desire to work toward contending for a National Championship as they have in the past.