Depth seems to be a common theme for Blackburn Athletics this year. The Blackburn Women's Basketball team will continue the trend during its 2017-2018 campaign. The Beavers are starting fresh this year with first year head coach, Jim Chandler. "My goal for the season is to begin rebuilding the program to a competitive level and compete to the best of our abilities night in and night out", commented Chandler.
Jim Chandler brings a different perspective to the team as he was once in these players very shoes. Chandler, a graduate of Blackburn College is very familiar with the conference and school, which is beneficial for this program. Chandler commented, "I am excited to be back at Blackburn and look forward to getting the opportunity to compete against old rivals and push our program to a more competitive level".
With a new coach, comes a new coaching philosophy and perspective of the game. Chandler talked about the importance of both offense and defense in the game of basketball. "We stress all areas of the game, but we focus greatly on the defensive side of the ball. Learning to play physical and become a team that communicates well with each other on the defensive end will be a key to our success".
Coach Chandler discussed the leadership of the team by stating, "We will be looking to develop leaders through work every day. Gariel Pierce has stepped up right now and shown she can be a positive leader for our program".
Pierce, a Junior Forward (Springfield, IL) will return back to the court this year after taking a year off. She will be joined by fellow returners; Sophomore Forward, Maria Cline (Springfield, IL); Senior Guard, Brooke Meyer (Caseyville, IL); Sophomore Guard, Lauryn Jackson (Tonopah, AR); Sophomore Guard, Alexia Duncan (St. Louis, Mo); Junior Forward, Elisabeth Johnston (Adrian, MI); and Sophomore Forward, Makayla Ewing (Springfield, IL). Coach commented on his returners by stating, "We believe that we can see big contribution from our returning players".
The other half of the team will be made up of freshman. The first-year class consist of: Guard, Olivia Olroyd (Carlinville, IL); Forward, Brianna Henke (Mt. Olive, IL); Forward, Haley Crider (Grante City, IL); Guard, Kate Smith (DuQuoin, IL); Guard, Annika Ochs (Bethalto, IL); Guard, Jenna Dudra (Pana, IL); Forward, Kaylee Pedigo (Benton, IL); and Forward, Savannah Kruse (Lake St. Louis, MO).
With such a large group of newcomers, adjusting to the game becomes a concern for most programs. However, Chandler believes in his freshmen class and commented on their ability to adjust to all aspects of the game. "Our freshmen have come in ready to compete and are rapidly improving daily. We are seeing them adjust to the speed and physicality of the game and expect many of them to contribute this season".
The Beavers will open up their season on Wednesday at home, with a non-conference matchup against Robert Morris-Springfield. Tip-off is set for 6pm.