by Tim Miller
The 2017-18 edition of the Cedarville Lady Jackets basketball team may be the most experienced in recent memory. The Lady Jackets lose just one player from last season, and return 99 percent (2,000 of 2,015 points) of their scoring from last season.
Lady Jackets head coach Kari Hoffman returns for her second season at the helm, and said the experience on the team will allow her to get ahead.
“That allows us to have a jumpstart on the season because they know what this program is all about,” Hoffman said. “We’ve got really good leadership from the top down.”
Crowded yet loaded backcourt
On top of all the returners this season, the Lady Jackets also add the services of Abby Wolford. Wolford suffered a torn ACL in a scrimmage last season that kept her out for the year. She injured her meniscus during the summer. However, Hoffman said she should be cleared to play by the middle of October.
Wolford is a redshirt junior, and averaged 8.0 and 12.1 points per game in her freshman and sophomore campaigns, respectively.
“My expectation for myself is to jump back where I was,” Wolford said. “It might take some time but I’m prepared to get there.”
Hoffman commented on the addition of Wolford to her backcourt and said there should be major production coming from the guard play this season.
“Just thinking about what we had last year and thinking about what we have coming back, and then boosting it with Abby is really exciting,” Hoffman said.
Senior Regina Hochstetler and junior Baylee Bennett return to the Lady Jackets as two of the top 15 3-point shooters in the G-MAC from a season ago. The two combined to average 28 points per game last season, and Hochstetler set the school record for free-throw percentage last season at 90 percent.
Frontcourt bolstered by grit
Seniors Emily Williams and Breanne Watterworth and junior Taylor Buckley willed the Lady Jackets to becoming the best rebounding team in the conference last season. Williams (8.1 rebounds per game), Watterworth (7.3) and Buckley (6.9) return to continue to help the team clean up the glass.
Hoffman said she expects to lean on Watterworth and Williams again this season and that Buckley will provide great energy like she did last year.
Watterworth was the primary scoring threat down low last season, averaging 11.2 points per game. Williams led the team in blocks, swatting 1.3 shots per game last year.
“The fundamentals of just boxing out and having a desire to go get the ball every time it comes off the rim allows us to rebound as well as we have,” Watterworth said.
The roster contains many familiar faces from last season, but Hoffman thinks some players without as much recognition could still make a name for themselves this season.
Hoffman said she eagerly anticipates seeing the freshmen develop and compete for playing time.
“I think our freshmen will be a little surprising to some people if they continue to develop,” Hoffman said. “I could see them standing out very quickly.”
Hoffman singled out newcomers Stevie Johnting and Ashlyn Huffman as players who could step in and gain significant minutes.
Johnting is a long defender who has a good first step with the ball in her hands, according to Hoffman. Hoffman speculated that Huffman may be the smartest freshman to come through the program and said she could even compete for a starting point guard role this season.
The quest for a G-MAC title is even more grueling this season. Findlay, Hillsdale, Lake Erie, Ohio Dominican and Walsh join an expanded conference this season, meaning Cedarville’s schedule will rarely feature a non-conference foe.
The Lady Jackets welcome reigning Division II national champion Ashland to the Callan Athletic Center this season and play Indianapolis, who toppled Cedarville 58-39 in last season’s showdown.
Hoffman said there’s not many goals she’s set for the team this season. She said she wants her team to focus on the daily aspects of basketball.
“I want to beat the teams we’re supposed to beat and surprise teams in the G-MAC,” Hoffman said.
Additionally, Hoffman wants her team to glorify God in all that they do.
“I just want us to get better every single day,” Hoffman said. “If we continue to do that, I think we can do some really special things.”
Tim Miller is a sophomore marketing major and sports editor for Cedars. He enjoys having a baby face, sipping Dunkin Donuts coffee and striving to be the optimal combination of Dwight Schrute and Ron Swanson.