RICHMOND, Ind. – Earlham women's basketball closed out its 2017-18 season by making its first post-season appearance in a decade. The Quakers finished with a 7-10 overall record – most wins in three seasons – with a 7-11 mark in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference, and finished the season on the up-swing with a 6-4 record after mid-January.
This season, the Quakers are hoping for much more.
That long march toward late February starts on Saturday afternoon in South Bend, Ind., when Earlham visits Saint Mary's College of Indiana for its 2018-19 season opener.
Ten letterwinners and four starters off the 2017-18 squad will be in uniform for second-year Head Coach Shauna Watson when the Quakers face the Belles on Saturday. None of those starters, and only one of the letterwinners, will be a senior.
If nothing else, this year's Earlham women's basketball team is still young, but very experienced.
"We'll work hard. We're light-years ahead of where we in the first couple of practices last year in terms of understanding concepts. I think offensively we've improved, and our defense has been solid as well," said Watson.
"I don't think there'll be any real differences in terms of how we play, but our speed excites me as far as pressing and pushing the ball in transition," said Watson. "I really like our chemistry, and how well the women on this team work together."
Junior forward Zoe Curtis paced the Quakers in scoring last season as a sophomore with 12.2 points per game, and anchor Earlham offensively again in 2018-19. An Honorable Mention All-Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference selection, Curtis was the Quakers' top shooter with a .510 field goal pct.
In the backcourt, juniors Kyndall Spears and Camryn White will be counted upon to run the offense and to up their scoring to help replace the points the Quakers used to count on from graduated forward Mariah Flynn (9.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 20 blocks).
Spears averaged 7.7 points per game in 17-18, and was Earlham's top long-range threat with 39 3-point field goals. White saw some time at point guard early in the season before moving to "off" guard, where she averaged 7.0 points along with 2.9 assists and 43 steals last year.
Junior Amy Weisner and sophomore Acacia Tenette split time as Earlham's fifth starter last season, and both could play a larger factor in Earlham's offensive and defensive schemes this season. Weisner (2.8 ppg, 2.5 rpg) charted 37 assists last season, and had a knack for a clutch basket when the Quakers needed one. Tenette showed some promise as a playmaker with 45 assists – second-most among the returnees – and as a defensive stopper with her team-high 45 steals. She will start at point guard as Earlham opens the 2018-19 season.
Sophomore Kayla Bowling was the first player off the bench for most of the 2017-18 season, and will also be contending for a starting slot. She averaged 4.4 points in her rookie campaign, and displayed abilities at both ends of the floor with 31 assists and 30 steals.
The Quakers also return the services of senior guard Ashlea Meadows (0.9 ppg) and sophomore guard Shea Stanley (0.5 ppg), but most intriguing among the returnees may be senior guard Makayla McFarland and junior forward Maddy Krodel. Both missed all of 2017-18 due to injury, and could be key elements of Watson's schemes this time around. McFarland netted 12 points on 4-of-9 shooting from the field in Earlham's preseason scrimmage against Indiana Tech, while Krodel – a 5-11 post player – finished with seven points and a pair of assists.
The combination of so many young players who gained considerable experience as first years and sophomore last season, coupled with Watson having a better grasp of her personnel, should make Earlham more prepared for the season ahead.
"We've been more focused on the details right from the start this season – things that maybe we didn't become picky about until the end of last season," said Watson. "I tell people that instead of starting on day one it was almost like starting on day 20 this year."
"I trust them more, and they trust me more. And I think that just makes things more enjoyable," added Watson.
The Quakers will have 10 days to prepare for their second game of the season on Tuesday, Nov. 20, at Alma College, before returning to Richmond for the home opener on Wednesday, Nov. 28, against Wilmington College (Ohio). The HCAC slate will open on Saturday, Dec. 1, when Earlham travels to Anderson.
For more information about Earlham women's basketball, visit the online home of Earlham College athletics at www.GoEarlham.com. Fans can also stay up-to-date on the latest Earlham athletics news by following Earlham Quakers on Facebook (Earlham Quakers Athletics), Twitter (@EarlhamQuakers), and Instagram (EarlhamQuakers).