Kenna Greenway is bullish about her intentions to lead the Hannibal-LaGrange women's basketball team back to the postseason.
Kenna Greenway is bullish about her intentions to lead the Hannibal-LaGrange women's basketball team back to the postseason for the first time since her freshman year.
Getting there may prove no simple task.
Four of the 13 squads in the American Midwest Conference are ranked in the NAIA preseason top 25, but Greenway and her Lady Trojans are ready to take on the challenge.
“We are in one of the toughest conferences in the nation, so getting this group together and being able to make the conference tournament, that's my goal for this season and I think that's what's everyone else is striving for,” the senior said.
HLGU coach Kelly Quigle returns four players who took the floor last season when the Lady Trojans finished 4-25 and four places removed from a berth in the AMC Tournament, which requires a top 8 finish in the conference standings.
Greenway is the lone senior this year after scoring 12.4 points per game last season. Kylee Elmore figures to play a significant role after averaging 7.9 points in 2016-2017, while fellow juniors Maritza Chavez and Taylor King are also back.
That's where the experience stops.
Half the Lady Trojans are freshmen.
“My freshmen are going to have to grow up a lot faster than they've had to in the past because we are so young,” Quigle said.
The sixth-year coach expects three newcomers — guard Madisen Simpson as well as forwards Emma Anderson and Ashly Kinney — to be starters when HLGU opens its season against Missouri Valley College at 7 p.m. on Thursday at Mabee Sports Complex. Greenway and Elmore will round out the starting five.
The team is searching for solutions to fill the gap left by graduated standouts Sarah Cline and Emma Penn, two of the Lady Trojans top three scorers from last year.
“They both scored for us and were taller, so that takes away a little bit of a post presence,” said Greenway, the second-leading scorer last season. “But we've got so many different people coming in, and there's a bunch of them are athletic and they're ready to score coming in their freshman year.”
Anderson, 5-foot-8, will be relied upon in the post right away.
“She does an excellent job rebounding,” Quigle said of the freshman. “She's not that tall, but she rebounds like she's over 6 foot because she can read the ball. Her biggest impact is rebounding and she can defend the post. We're really looking for her to help us on the defensive end.”
Junior transfer Skylar Evans will be another option for HLGU on the inside, though she won't be immediately available as she is still playing with the Lady Trojans soccer team that begins postseason play Friday. Evans, 5-foot-10, is the tallest player at Quigle's disposal, meaning HLGU will often be overmatched height-wise.
While the Lady Trojans are a bit smaller than recent seasons, they plan to compensate by running a quicker offense.
“Offensively, it's not going to make a difference to what we're doing this year,” the coach said of having 10 guards. “But defensively, some of my girls listed as guards are going to have to defend on the inside and play more of a post on defense.”
Redshirt sophomore Sabrina Stewart and freshmen Rhiannon Runyon, Jeri-Nakole Stanford and Caitlin King round out the Lady Trojans roster. With new players getting opportunities to prove themselves, Quigle's lineup remains flexible.
“It could change every game who we've got in that lineup,” the coach said.
Not only will HLGU begin the season without Evans, they also won't have the services of Taylor King much of the first month due to a bone bruise. In the meantime, Greenway will serve as point guard rather than her natural spot on the wing.
“Every year, her role on the floor has increased,” Quigle said of Greenway. “Last year, she really had to step up, and now being a senior with six freshmen, she's really going to have to step up and get everyone on the same page this year.”
Greenway mentioned she wants be a leader in her final collegiate season.
“I've always been kind of quiet and I try to lead by actions,” she said. “But being a senior on the team I feel like it's my job to be more vocal and put people in the places they need to be and help them along.”