FRANKLIN, Ind. – With more than a month separating their first practice and first regular season game, the Franklin women's basketball team has been champing at the bit to get their season going and will have the chance to do so on Friday (Nov. 22) night.
"They've been stir-crazy for a while now," Head coach Dana Haggenjos said with a smile. "Our kids have been ready to see live competition for a while and we're excited to see what they can do when we finally step on the floor."
The Grizzlies return all but one rotation player from last year's team, which includes a pair of all-conference selections in junior Bayleigh Walker and sophomore Jessica Nix. What this year's installment of the Grizzlies will feature that it didn't a year ago is a wealth of experience, with nine returning letter-winners from last year's club who are battle-tested and looking to improve on last year's results.
"What we have this year that we lacked last year is experience," Haggenjos added. "We are excited about the opportunities in front of us and the chance to come together as a team and to use our familiarity with each other to our advantage. We wanted to raise expectations for this year and I think we can attain those goals this year with the group that we have."
Back for another year after leading the Grizzlies in scoring for the second straight season is Walker, who picked up her second all-conference honor last year after averaging 13.3 points per game. She will be joined in the front court by a familiar cast that includes returners Cassidy Yant, Destinee Cross and Erikka Ededuwa along with freshman Bayleigh Torrance. All four of the returners saw time in the starting lineup last year.
The back court will also feature familiar faces with seniors Ashlin Aycock and Erin Bradley back for their final seasons in the blue and gold. Aycock started 22 contests a year ago while Bradley brings 28 career starts to the club. Sophomore Britney Ballard finished third on the team in scoring at 8.0 points per game and is the team's top returning three-point shooter after connecting on 44.1% of her attempts as a rookie.
Nix will make the move to the wing after landing on the league's all-freshman team a year ago. Juniors Lindsay Freije and Isabella Ratliff both averaged more than 10 minutes a game last year and are joined by sophomore Amy Davis as well as newcomers Jenna Cowart, Taylor McDaniel, Sam Pankratz, Libby Baker, Taylee Nibbs and Carinne Henderson as those vying for playing time.
"I feel like we're more dynamic this year with our athleticism and the fact we had everyone ready to go when practice started," Haggenjos added. "We like our depth and our ability to move people around and put them in a place they might be better equipped to succeed. We feel like we're going to be able to cause problems at both ends of the floor because of our length and athleticism along with improved shooting from our perimeter players."
The Grizzlies' long wait to play comes to an end when they meet Wilmington College in the first game of the Fred Raizk Memorial Tournament on Friday night in Wilmington, Ohio. Tip-off between the Grizzlies and Quakers is set for 6:00 p.m.