Seniors ready to lead Bluffton on the hardourt in 2011-12
As the beginning of the season rapidly approaches, the Bluffton University women's basketball team is working diligently to prepare for their first game of the 2011-12 campaign. With seventh-year Head Coach Chad Shutler directing the Beavers, Bluffton will count on the experience and leadership of a talented and deep senior class. Coming off a season in which Bluffton finished 10-15 overall and 7-15 in the Heartland Conference, the Beavers will rely on that core group of three-year letter winners to strike a balance on the court this season.
Bluffton will utilize the experience of those five seniors to set the example throughout the season. Senior wing Brittany Stegmaier (Garfield Heights/Trinity), the top returning scorer, averaged 12.3 points per game and 4.3 rebounds per contest. Senior guards Rachel Daman (Defiance/Tinora) and Beth Yoder (Marshallville/Smithville) are talented shooters who can score from distance, while Brittany Lewis (Springfield/Shawnee) and Alicia Amis (Mechanicsburg) are adept ball handlers with a penchant for finding the open teammate or taking it to the hole.
Providing an established post presence as well as being able to step outside and knock down the mid-range jumper is junior Lauren Hutton (New Riegel). She is a key member of the Beavers as she averaged 9.8 PPG and 5.1 RPG while shooting a team-best 54 percent from the field. Junior guard Francena Tate (Fostoria/St. Wendelin) came on late last year and gave Bluffton a spark off the bench. Sophomore post players Kylee Burkholder (West Unity/Hilltop) and Sarah Inskeep (Morral/Ridgedale) give the Beavers options on the block this season. Burkholder scored 4.0 PPG and hauled in 3.6 RPG, while Inskeep spent her freshman campaign sidelined with an injury.
Also looking to crack the rotation for Coach Shutler are six freshmen and junior transfer Elizabeth Miller (Riverside, Iowa) who played for Hesston College the past two seasons. How quickly the newcomers adjust to the speed of the game will determine how much time they see on the floor this season as Bluffton returns eight players who saw significant action last year.
Returning to Bluffton after a decorated career at point guard for the Beavers is first year assistant coach Amanda Bell. She stated that, "Having five seniors with three years of experience will positively impact the team as those ladies all know what it means to compete successfully at this level."
The Beavers are ready to build on a foundation that recent graduates and Outstanding Senior Female Athletes Ginny Buckingham and #2 all-time leading scorer Kim Miller helped to forge. Bluffton finished its 2010-11 campaign second in the conference for assists and third in triples made. With a guard-laden squad on the floor this season, that trend is likely to continue. Taking care of the ball and being able to force turnovers and convert them into easy baskets will be important if the Bluffton seniors are to make a run in the Heartland Conference tournament as the Beavers play what looks to be their final full season in Founders Hall. The HCAC should be balanced in 2011-12 with defending champion Hanover graduating five talented seniors from a squad that went 25-2 and 17-1 in the conference.