It’s not too often that a team with a 22-8 record and a regular season conference championship under its belt changes coaches. The 2016-17 Cedarville Lady Jackets basketball team is experiencing that rare occasion.
Former head coach Kirk Martin retired from the Cedarville basketball program after 15 years. He is the winningest coach in the program’s history.
Now, Kari (Flunker) Hoffman, one of the most accomplished players Martin has coached at Cedarville, grabs the reins of the team as Cedarville’s new head coach. An All-American for Cedarville, Hoffman served as an assistant coach prior to this season.
After calling Martin a legend of a coach, Hoffman said she’s ready to lead the team as the new head coach.
“I’m very honored to fill his shoes,” Hoffman said. “I’m excited about putting my own stamp on the program and making it my own.”
Under Martin, Cedarville won nearly 75 percent of its games last season, although it lost its final game of the season in the GMAC conference championship game. The Jackets allowed its opponent, Ursuline, to score the final nine points of the game.
Coach Hoffman said they let the game slip away in the final minutes but the overall outcome of the season was positive.
“I think any time you have 22 wins in a season, you consider that a success,” Hoffman said. “Obviously, losing in the championship game was a disappointment.”
High standards for the season
Even with a new coach, and four seniors leaving the squad from last season, the team has high expectations. The team looks to build off of last season’s success, with multiple goals pertaining to the conference in sight.
“We want to win the GMAC conference tournament, and we understand that’s obtainable if you have a respectable record,” Hoffman said.
They also want to win the regular season conference title, Hoffman said, which would, in turn, allow them to host the conference tournament. Outside of the conference title, Hoffman said she wants to see her squad amass at least 20 wins.
When it comes to actually accomplishing those goals, toughness and a fresh mix of experience should help.
“I think we have a good level of toughness on this team,” Hoffman said. “I think we have a good core of juniors that are looking to step into leadership roles, and are already doing a really good job at it. That gives us a lot of players with experience, but at the same time I feel like we are pretty young because we haven’t necessarily put in the stuff we need to yet.”
Hoffman said she sees shooting and defense as strengths for the team.
With all the talent on the team, Hoffman said she still understands there’s some improvements that can be made.
Hoffman said she feels the team should also improve in transitional offense.
Multiple players to impact team
Two post players should positively impact the Lady Jackets, Hoffman said.
Listed at 6-foot-3, Breanne Watterworth averaged 7 points per game coupled with 6 rebounds in 19 minutes per game last season. Now a junior, Watterworth is expected to patrol the paint with help from fellow junior Emily Williams.
“Just starting with our bigs, I think Bre Watterworth and Emily Williams will be big inside for us and get a lot of minutes,” Hoffman said. “They’re really our only true posts.”
After a knee injury ended Regina Hochstetler’s season just as it began in 2015, Hoffman said she sees the redshirt sophomore helping out as well now that she has recovered. Hochstetler averaged an impressive 7 points and led the team in free throw percentage as a freshman.
“I’m really excited about Regina Hochstetler coming back from her ACL injury,” Hoffman said. “She looks in tip-top shape. I’m really excited about her gaining a lot of minutes.”
Junior guard Abby Wolford is the leading returning scorer from last season, but she recently tore the ACL and meniscus in one of her knees. Wolford averaged 12 points per game, including a 27-point explosion against Kentucky Wesleyan. Hoffman said she had expected Wolford to continue to play a big role like she did last year.
Two freshmen recruits have joined the team this season: one guard and one forward.
Anna DeFilippo, from St. Clairsville High School in St. Clairsville, Ohio, will play in the backcourt. DeFilippo was the school’s all-time leading scorer, and was an all-state special mention as a senior.
“Anna is a lights out shooter,” Hoffman said. “She has quite the ability to put the ball in the bucket, and she’s not afraid to shoot.”
Hoffman said that Cameron Peek, a forward from Grand Rapids, Michigan, can do it all.
“Cameron can play many positions and she is really smart,” Hoffman said. “She has a very high basketball IQ.”
In regards to playing time, both need to go through the typical freshman growth process according to Hoffman, but both are vying for playing time right off.
“I see Cameron playing some minutes early, and Anna possibly down the road,” Hoffman said.
The 2016-2017 season
The team opens the season with the GLIAC/GMAC classic on Nov. 11 and 12 with games against Ashland and Ohio Dominican in Ashland, Ohio.
Last season, Ashland defeated the Lady Jackets 62-43 en route to a 31-2 season. ODU knocked off Cedarville in two overtimes last season, winning 81-74.
Coach Hoffman said she also looks forward to their matchup with Indianapolis, a team they beat 47-44 last year. Always a tough matchup, Hoffman said they’ll be tougher this season with the addition of some transfers.
In an interesting meeting, Division II Cedarville will take on Division I Miami (Ohio) Redhawks in an exhibition.
“Our girls are excited about playing Miami University, that’ll be a fun game,” Hoffman said. “We have a good relationship with Miami’s coach, he’s a Christian guy. He’s trying to build that program up the right way. Whenever we can play the Divisions I’s, our girls get pumped for it and it’s a good experience.”
In conference play, perennial rivals of Ursuline and Trevecca will be challenges for Cedarville as well.
Cedarville’s first home game was Sat, Nov. 19, against Cincinnati Christian at 1 p.m.
Tim Miller is a freshman journalism student at Cedarville University. Tim loves anything that has to do with sports, and hopes to write about sports for a career after graduating from Cedarville.