By BRIAN LESTER
Kayla Brown spent part of her summer with her senior teammates developing her leadership skills.
The former Riverdale standout welcomed the opportunity with open arms as she knows leadership will play a key role in the success of the University of Findlay women’s basketball team this year.
“We have a lot of new players on the team, so leadership is going to be huge,” Brown said. “Communication and being able to step up in games is going to be key for us.”
Brown (guard/forward) is one of four seniors. Laura Piehl (guard), Tai Dotson (forward) and Kendra Elam (guard) are the other seniors. Point guard Ashley Andrews is in her fourth year but did not play two years ago because of an injury.
“This group worked really hard on being better leaders and you can see them in practice talking and setting the tone,” UF head coach Kate Cummings said. “You also see a big difference in our junior class. They have experience and they bring a lot of energy to our team.”
Brown is the leading returning scorer, averaging 12.7 points per game last year. The preseason all-Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference pick also pulled down a team-high 5.1 rebounds per game and led the team in steals with 59.
Piehl missed last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and re-injured herself over the summer. She is expected to return by December or January. The three-time all-conference selection has scored 1,262 points in her career and has 444 rebounds and 273 assists.
Dotson (4.5 ppg, 3.6 rpg) and Elam (2.9, 2.0) also bring experience to UF, as does Andrews (5.3 ppg, 58 assists).
The offense will also get a boost from sophomore forward Lacey Kessler (7.2 ppg, 3.0 rpg), a former Riverdale star.
Junior guards Kaleigh Kenny and Karli Beasley, along with sophomore point guard Kristin Klausing, return for the Oilers who averaged 67.1 points per contest and shot 41 percent from the field en route to finishing 15-12 overall and 9-10 in the GLIAC.
“I’m expecting to see our field goal percentage come up quite a bit and I think we will be a lot more balanced in our attack,” Cummings said. “Different players will lead us from night to night and we should get consistent post play.”
One player, who should help bring a lift to the inside game, is Andrea Kras, a 6-foot-6 transfer from Western Michigan University.
Freshmen forwards Margaret Wuebker and Kelsey Lewis will likely see time in the post. Freshman Baileee Maggert will give UF depth at point guard and first-year players Alyssa Grevenkamp and Julia Grisdela will compete for time at the guard position.
Indiana State transfer Nikki Gunning will redshirt this year.
“I am really excited about this group,” Cummings said. “A lot of our new players will see time on the floor. We think depth will be one of our biggest assets and we want to use that depth to wear down opponents. We want teams to look at our schedule and say we do not want to play Findlay.”
The Oilers allowed 62.7 pointers per game last year and held opponents to 39.4 percent shooting. They forced 556 turnovers and Brown believes UF has the potential to be even better on defense.
“We want to be more aggressive and more physical,” Brown said. “The key for us on defense is that we trust each other.”
UF has its sights set on contending for a GLIAC South Division championship despite being picked third in the division. NCAA Division II runnerup Ashland, the No. 1 D-II, and Tiffin are picked ahead of the Oilers.
The Oilers were knocked out of the conference tourney in the opening round last year, falling 68-61 to Ferris State, which is ranked 24th in the nation.
UF is not only determined to go deeper in the conference tourney but it’s also hoping to return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2010.
“The discussion for this team is not only about the conference, but it’s about the NCAA, too,” Cummings said. “They are committed to that goal and they believe they can accomplish it.”
The Oilers begin their season on Friday when they host Indiana Tech in a 7 p.m. game at Croy Gymnasium.
Oilers’ 2012-13 Schedule
Nov. 9 Indiana Tech, 7
Nov. 14 Ursuline, 5:30
Nov. 21 at Notre Dame (Ohio), 6
Nov. 29 Lake Superior St. (x), 8
Dec. 1 Northwood (x), 3
Dec. 6 at Michigan Tech (x), 7:30
Dec. 8 at Northern Michigan (x), 3
Dec. 15 Ferris St. (x), 3
Dec. 17 Grand Valley St. (x), 8
Dec. 19 at Urbana, 5:30
Dec. 29 Northwestern Ohio, 1
Jan. 3 at Saginaw Valley St. (x), 8
Jan. 5 at Wayne State (x), 3
Jan. 10 Ohio Dominican (x), 8
Jan. 12 Tiffin (x), 3
Jan. 17 at Ashland (x), 7:30
Jan. 19 at Lake Erie (x), 3
Jan. 24 at Walsh (x), 8
Jan. 26 Malone (x), 4
Feb. 2 at Hillsdale (x), 3
Feb. 7 at Ohio Dominican (x), 7:30
Feb. 9 at Tiffin (x), 3
Feb. 14 Ashland (x), 8
Feb. 16 Lake Erie (x), 3
Feb. 21 Walsh (x), 8
Feb. 23 at Malone (x), 3
Mar. 2 Hillsdale (x), 3
Mar. 6, 9 & 10 GLIAC Tournament
Mar. 15, 16, & 18 NCAA Division II regional
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