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INA, Ill. (Oct. 29, 2013) – With its first home game less than a week away, the Rend Lake College Lady Warrior basketball team is working day and night to prepare for a season of improvement and strong leadership.
Coming off a year with a very young team and a loss to Southwestern Illinois College in the Region XXIV semifinals, Head Coach Ward McDaniel said he is looking forward to seeing the returning players take a lead role on the team and work to make it to the National Championship Tournament.
“We have several sophomore leaders this year. We only had one last year, so we didn’t have a lot of leadership within the team itself,” said McDaniel. “I’m expecting a lot of leadership out of these sophomores. They’ve been here and done it all before. I’m expecting them to be helping the freshmen out. We have a good core group coming back, and with our freshman, our skill level is going to rise from last year. We’ve set very specific goals for ourselves and they’re attainable if the players work well together.”
The Lady Warrior sophomores include LaNeice Cannon of Madison, Wis.; Tyra Gooch of Indianapolis, Ind.; Jasmine Guthrie of Belleville; Kristina Henley of Metropolis; Marquita Hilliard-Williams of Madison, Wis.; Denise Johnson of Memphis, Tenn.; Kayla Murphy of Collinsville and Jamillie Reed of Memphis, Tenn.
In addition to the eight sophomores, there are six freshmen players: Alexa Capps of Woodlawn; Savannah Enlow of Corydon, Ind.; Kristen Jenkins of San Antonio, Texas; Brandy Miflin of Christopher; Natalie Williamson of Mt. Vernon and Khadijah Wilson of Madison, Wis.
McDaniel said another aspect of the leadership role is that the second-year students have been paired with incoming freshmen, both on and off the court, to welcome them to RLC and to the world of college basketball.
“They’re all paired together to work with them, and not just in practice,” said McDaniel. “They took them around campus and acted like a mentor in the first couple weeks. I’m trying to make it a family atmosphere for the team.”
Of the retuning players, Cannon, Guthrie and Henley were selected as captains of the team by the other players. As captains, the three help keep practice on track and are the go-to players for others who have questions or concerns.
“Leadership is what really matters; the chemistry of the team,” said Henley. “We’re working right now on the freshmen and getting them adjusted to the fast-paced game and the pressure.”
Guthrie added, “Our goal this year is to have a better record than last year. We were at .500, and we want to do better than that. The ultimate goal is to go to Nationals.”
McDaniel said the girls are already on track for a good year, having competed in several jamborees earlier this month.
“They just finished their third jamboree and they did a really good job,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of positive growth in our freshmen. They’re growing together and playing together. When they see someone else and react well together as a team, that’s definitely growth.”
Last year, the Lady Warriors finished 15-15 overall and 6-10 in the Great Rivers Athletic Conference. The Lady Warriors will play their first game of the season at home against Lindenwood University on Nov. 2. On Nov. 6, their second home game will be against Morthland College before going on the road to Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield on Nov. 9.