FRANKLIN, Ind. – With a youthful group of players featuring a combination of experienced program veterans and talented newcomers, the Franklin College women's basketball team looks to get back to their winning ways in 2018-19.
The Grizzlies bring back eight players from a year ago and welcome a deep and talented freshman class that hope to help the team improve from last year's seven-win campaign. With the team wrapping up pre-season practices, the battles on the court have been hyper-competitive with everyone fighting for playing time.
And that has been very encouraging for fifth-year head coach Dana Haggenjos, who has seen the level of competition raised by a group of student-athletes anxious to get the program back on track.
"The energy level with this group has been phenomenal," Haggenjos said. "Last year, conversation on the floor was coming from our seniors but this year, it's coming from our freshmen instead. And there are so many kids speaking up and taking a leadership role and that makes for competitive practices. We have a lot of kids that came from competitive programs and they all hate to lose."
Franklin welcomes back their top scorer and rebounder from a year ago in sophomore forward Bayleigh Walker. The Plainfield, Ind.-native averaged 13.5 points and 7.2 rebounds per game on her way to a second team all-conference selection and a spot on the HCAC All-Freshman team. She's joined in the front court by another sophomore, Emiley Carlton, who is going through her first pre-season after transferring in at the semester last year.
The team is set to get serious reinforcements down low from newcomers Destinee Cross, Rhegan Day, Cassidy Yant, Jessica Nix and Erikka Ededuwa. The front court group is expected to be a strength of the team with a versatile and competitive group that can beat teams a variety of ways.
"We didn't have a lot of players coming back that played in the post for us last year," Haggenjos added. "What we do have are some skilled kids that have height and they can step out with Bayleigh and Emiley. But we also have some post players in the freshmen class that will be able to stretch teams because they can play with their back to the basket or face up defenders. We can go smaller if we want but we've also got a lot of power down low."
On the perimeter, Franklin returns a slew of veterans that logged important minutes a year ago. Junior Ashlin Aycock is the team's top returning scorer among guards after emerging as a threat last season. She's joined by senior Mallory Cast, junior Taylor Baxter and sophomores Isabella Ratliff and Lindsay Freije who will all push for playing time.
The back court will feature several new faces with Karlee Welding, Ellie Johnson, Britney Ballard, Addie Rund, Lillie Stein, Alayna Munson and Amy Davis expected to push for minutes. For their head coach, it's all about finding the right combination come game day.
"We have three kids we feel like we can turn to and lead us at the point," Haggenjos continued. "We're trying to change our offensive philosophy and maximize a lot of player's strengths. We have kids that can put the ball on the floor and shoot it and we just want them to get out and play. Our basketball IQ increased from last year to this year and that should help us at both ends of the floor."
The Grizzlies will be tested early on, with just two of their first 11 games at home. The first of those home games takes place in the season opener on Sunday (Nov. 11) afternoon, when Franklin takes on Mount Mary University inside the Spurlock Center. Tip-off is set for 2:00 p.m.