Looking to rebound

The LadyKats started the preseason with a 68-60 victory against Texas A&M Kingsville last Saturday, but now the team is heading to Kissimmee, Fla. for its first game of the season against Eastern Illinois on Friday.Returning players senior Alice Johnson and junior Stacy Allen improved the team’s performance, along with freshmen Stephanie Trachier and Shauna Singleton, who all did a good job in the exhibition game, head coach Erika Ritter said. Johnson had eight offense boards and 16 points, while Allen brought in 17 points for the team. “(Johnson) played great defense and I thought she looked good.” Ritter said. The LadyKats were behind in the first half, but fought hard for a come back with 43 points in the second half to ultimately win the game. “We were definitely anxious, and we played hard,” said Ritter. “As a whole, we were happy to see that they played hard and they were into each other; from player one to player 12, everybody was into the game.”Ritter said she used different lineups in the game and brought in players from the bench who were able, which kept the game strong. “I thought we got a spark off our bench so that is always nice to have,” she said. “At that, five or six minutes into the game you can go to your bench, put somebody in and they add some life to the game and I think that is going to be a strength of ours this year.”The team never gave up, but it still need some work on offense, transition defense and man-to-man defense, she said.All the players had a good game, but there were things that everyone did well and things everyone missed on the court, Ritter said. The players have had a lot of items to tackle this week before Friday’s game and Ritter said the team has been working on executing the offense out of the break, fast breaking and getting right into the offense. “Our half court zone looked pretty well (at the game), and I think that is what kept us in the game,” she said. “We worked on our press breaker because we struggled with Kingsville’s two, two, one, full court press and we shouldn’t have.”The LadyKats will be up against a tight-reined team from Eastern Illinois, bringing on more height than the LadyKats have to offer. “They are a very disciplined team and they run an offense that is very similar to ours, and defensively, they get in your passing lanes and they play very, very good man-to-man defense,” Ritter said. “And they do have some height.” Eastern Illinois’ smallest player on the court is the team’s point guard at 5’5, and from there, the players’ height go up to 6’2, but Ritter expects the LadyKats to be faster on the court than their opponents. “They are going to be a little taller than us, but I’m just hoping we are going to be a little quicker,” she said. Stacy Allen said the team is excited to play an opponent it never has before in the first game of the season.”Nobody has ever been to this tournament, so we are all just excited to go down there,” Allen said. The LadyKats have been working on a lot of familiarity going into Friday’s game.”We have been working on continuity to just get familiar with each other so that we can bring it together and have a solid performance,” she said. Allen said the goal for everyone is to play together as team. “We are still learning everybody’s game and the exhibition game showed us what we needed to work on and we’ve been working on that in practice,” she said. Allen returns to the court as a guard this year, after a knee injury during the third game of the season for the LadyKats last year. The game against Eastern Illinois begins at 4 p.m. Friday.

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