FSU women’s hoops maintains high standard

Bulldogs picked to finish first in GLIAC North

BIG RAPIDS — There may be a new coach on board for the Ferris State women’s basketball team this season, but expectations remain as high as ever.

The Bulldogs captured a GLIAC North title last season, and return several players from the team that finished 23-7, reaching the NCAA Division II tournament.

New head coach Colleen Lamoreaux-Tate returns eight players from last season and says she expects her team to compete with everyone on the schedule and reach for the top of the GLIAC standings once again. The Bulldogs were picked to repeat as GLIAC North champs in the league’s preseason poll released on Wednesday.

RETURNING TO THE PAINT: Ferris State forward Christina Branch (40) returns this season after earning GLIAC Freshman of the Year honors last season. The Bulldogs were picked to repeat as GLIAC North champions in the league’s preseason poll. (Pioneer file photo)

“Winning the GLIAC is a goal of ours because it’s our bid to the tournament,” she said. “We talk about that a lot in practice and getting to that national championship game. That’s the goal, and if it isn’t, I’m not sure why you’re competing.”

Lamoreaux-Tate and the Bulldogs will get their first shot at competition at 6 p.m. on Friday in an exhibition contest against Calvin College at Wink Arena. FSU opens the regular season on Nov. 9 and 10 in the United Electric Tip-Off Classic hosted by Bellarmine University in Louisville, Ky.

Lamoreaux-Tate speaks of larger goals because she’s reached great heights in 26 years of coaching in the prep ranks at Grand Rapids Catholic Central, compiling a 167-19 record.

Right off the bat, the first-year coach said skill level across the roster and speed of the game are two of the biggest differences she’s noticed since taking over as coach at FSU.

“It’s been a change in terms of it being a little faster in pushing the ball,” she said. “They’re very smart young ladies and they can take to change and think on the fly.”

That’s good, Lamoreaux-Tate said, because she expects the Bulldogs to push the ball in transition this season.

The Bulldog offense will rely heavily on the ability to get up and down the floor, she said, making taking care of the basketball a huge point of emphasis in practice.

“We basically really want to push the ball and read and react to the defense down the floor,” she said. “We can run it again zone or man, instead of constantly running plays — although we will be doing that, too. When you’re pushing the ball, the risk is there might be more turnovers, so they’re learning to work with each other and know each other really well.”

That will make it important to have a reliable presence taking care of the ball up the court, which should eliminate some of Lamoreaux-Tate’s concerns.

Junior point guard Sarah DeShone returns after a breakthrough sophomore season in which she averaged 14.1 points, 3.7 rebounds and 4.6 assists. She will play an equally vital role in running the Bulldog offense this season, a year removed from earning All-GLIAC accolades. Both DeShone and sophomore forward Christina Branch were named preseason first-team All-GLIAC.

“Sarah DeShone does run the show, and she’s the coach on the floor,” Lamoreaux-Tate said. “She’s a good leader, both by example and vocally. We connect with each other from the sideline to the floor.”

Lamoreaux-Tate also benefits from a pair of talented returning post players in the GLIAC Freshman of the Year Branch and Hannah Hoffman, who has made great strides in diversifying her game in the offseason.

Branch made an immediate impact in giving the Bulldogs a dominant presence down low at times, and has been working on being more of an offensive threat this season, Lamoreaux-Tate said.

Hoffman averaged just 2.2 points and three rebounds per game as a freshman, but Lamoreaux-Tate believes she can have a much greater impact in her second season.

“Our inside game is really tough, I don’t know if people can defend us one-on-one,” she said. “Christina Branch is working on that 15-footer and the more you try to shut us down inside, we’ve got some good shooters that we can kick it out to.”

One of those shooters she will rely on is senior shooting guard Kylie Muntz, who stepped up last season as a reliable bench presence, shooting nearly 36 percent from the perimeter.

Muntz and fellow senior post player Katy Fox provide different forms of leadership while filling niches on the team like they did in helping the Bulldogs to a league title last season, Lamoreaux-Tate said.

“Kylie and Katy both feel very comfortable on the floor,” she said. “Kylie has a very good shot and Katy is extremely strong. We call Kylie the heart of the team because she keeps everyone together and then Katy is more of the silent type, but she’s still all about the team.”

Another player expected to contribute early in the season is freshman forward April LaCross, who brings a great court sense and disruptive, long arms.

“She’s been a huge surprise for us,” she said. “In my 27 years of coaching, she’s probably the most coachable player I’ve ever coached. Anything I say for her to do gets done. Her brain doesn’t stop out on the floor. She’ll certainly be in the rotation for playing time.”

The Bulldogs also will have a pair of redshirt freshmen in Katie Mavis and Olivia Walker, who are expected to provide depth in the backcourt, while junior Ashley Rando provides an inside-out presence in her third season with FSU.

Leave a Reply