The Lady Tigers suffered through a 3-18 season last year, but it was a team that fought through adversity and a major injury. That team had just one senior, but it was All-Big Dakota Conference player Jestice Talley. Everyone else is back and they are looking forward to being a much-improved basketball team.
“It would be disappointing if we weren’t,” said fifth-year head coach Lindsey Bachman. “We finally have experienced players, and we have a group of younger girls who can come in and give us good minutes.”
Bachman said the Lady Tigers will have much more depth this year. They could in fact go as deep as nine players most nights.
“It’s been a while since we’ve been able to do that,” said Bachman. “This year we can tell them to get out there and play their butts off, because they’ll get time to rest.”
That depth will be tested early. Starting with Saturday’s season-opener at Britton-Hecla, the team will play seven games over the next 14 days of the season. Included in the opening stretch will be games against top-notch programs like Aberdeen Roncalli, Timber Lake, Herreid/Selby Area and Sully Buttes.
“It’s a good thing we have that depth,” said Bachman. “We’re going to have to play it smart. It will be a physical test, but even more of a mental test.”
When the Lady Tigers take the floor on Saturday, the starting lineup probably (according to Bachman) will have three seniors in 5’8 forward Hannah Stroeder, 5’5 guard Jadin Monsen and 5’8 guard/forward Hayley Borah. They will be joined by 5’6 junior guard TyRel Thompson and 5’9 sophomore center Megan Zahn. Also expected to see a lot of time on the floor are 5’2 junior guard Myia Feist and a pair of freshmen in 5’9 guard/forward Landyn Henderson and 5’3 guard Maya Nobles. Gennie Krause, 5’8 senior forward/center will be an important player off the bench, but will miss the opener due to another commitment.
Also earning varsity jerseys are 5’7 junior guard Tish Mousseau and three freshmen, 5’6 guard Draeya Halsey, 5’7 guard/forward Leah Overland and 5’9 center Keena DeMarrias.
Also playing for the Lady Tigers are sophomores Natalia Gonzalez, Victoria Vogel, Xandrea Bearsheart, Brooklynn Vogel and Liberty Schaefbauer, and freshmen Sarah Cox, Ella Ulmer and Olivia Ulmer.
With added depth and a year of maturity, the Lady Tigers are looking to improve on both ends of the court. Last season they averaged just 31 points per game while giving up 51. Zahn is the leading returning scorer with 112 points last year. Monsen scored 76, Thompson 69 before injuring her knee in the sixth game of the season, Stroeder 65 and Borah 35. Stroeder led on the boards with 122 rebounds last year. Zahn had 101, Monsen 68, Borah 56 and Krause 25. Monsen, Thompson and Stroeder all had double-digit steals last year, picking off 28, 18 and 16, respectively.
After opening the season on the road, a six-team homestand is on the docket. The Lady Tigers will host Aberdeen Roncalli on Tuesday, Timber Lake on Dec. 13, Herreid/Selby Area in the annual Rotary Classic on Dec. 15, Sully Buttes on Dec. 17, Lemmon on Dec. 18 and Sisseton on Dec. 21.
“That’s one-third of our schedule before Christmas,” said Bachman.
Following the Christmas holiday, the Lady Tigers (and the Tigers) will play at Ellendale, N.D, on Dec. 26. Ellendale will be the 62nd different team the Lady Tigers have played.
The Lady Tigers and Britton-Hecla are playing for the 19th time on Saturday. The Lady Tigers lead the series 12-6. They have won three out of the last four, including a 55-27 win last season.
When the Lady Tigers open at home on Tuesday, they will be squaring off against Aberdeen Roncalli for the 43rd time. The Lady Tigers lead the series 22-20, but the Cavaliers have won the last two and five of the last six, including a 69-29 win last year.