2017-18 Season Outlook

The women’s basketball team made a significant step forward last season as they improved from a three-win year to a 16-16 overall record finish. The change came under the direction of new head coach Bill DeRuiter and was due in large part to a solid core of players who have developed together since their freshmen season. With that group returning for their senior year, the Trolls enter the 2017-18 season receiving votes in the NAIA Coaches’ Preseason Poll.  

“We have great senior leadership and are an experienced group,” said Coach DeRuiter. “That factor, along with our desire to improve on the last few years, will make us a strong contender this year.”

The Trolls finished the 2015-16 season with a 3-26 record, but they turned that around last year when they finished 16-16 overall and 8-12 in the conference. They advanced to post-season play with participation in both the conference tournament and the NCCAA region tournament. From that team the Trolls return eight players who averaged at least 13 minutes a game and have been major contributors on the court. In addition five of those athletes are seniors and have been part of the starting line-up for the past three seasons.  Added to that core are six newcomers, consisting of one junior transfer and five freshmen.

“Our roster is very balanced with a significant number of players contributing on the court,” commented DeRuiter. “We do not necessarily have any one standout, but will get even contribution from many players. In any given game if one key player is stopped, someone else can step up and get the job done.”

The familiarity among the players as well with Coach DeRuiter, who served as an assistant coach before he took over as head coach, will serve the team well. They know what to expect from each other and understand what is expected from them. With strong senior presence, the performance standard is set high and players are being held accountable for getting the job done.

Overall the Trolls will be strong in the guard and wing play which flows well into their style of play. They will attack the basket and play an up-tempo style. They will also depend on their defense as their calling card and use it to create the game flow they want. Their defensive pressure will force opponents into turnovers or take them out of their game plan and create scoring opportunities for the Trolls.

The five returning seniors will be key to the team’s success this season. They have all been a part of the starting line-up in the past and have the experience and talent to do well. Celina Wanta (West Bend, Wisconsin), a 5-9 forward, rose to the top last season as she led the team with 12.2 points per game and 5.6 rebounds per game. Also contributing 2.4 steals and 2.1 assists per game, her all-around game makes her hard to stop. Lauren Stokes (DeMotte, Indiana) will also be a major contributor with averages of 11.0 points and 4.8 rebounds per game last season. The 5-7 guard was a catalyst offensively and defensively as she posted 2.3 assists and 2.7 steals per game. Both Wanta and Stokes earned 2016-17 NCCAA North Central All-Region honors.

Bethany Jansma (Wheatfield, Indiana) is also a significant component to the team’s success with her strong attacking ability. A year ago she average 9.9 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game and was a threat from the three-point line. Her presence on the court will not be felt until the second semester when she returns from an injury that has sidelined her in the first half of the season. Katie Moran (Naperville, Illinois) has been in the starting line-up for the past three seasons. She adds valuable minutes on the court and complements the other players on the floor. A year ago she averaged 4.2 points and 3.0 rebounds and took care of the intangibles. Kelsie Foster (New Lenox, Illinois) helps the team on the boards as well as in scoring.  She took in 4.8 rebounds per game and averaged 7.3 points per game a year ago. She is a threat from long distance with 110 attempted three-pointers last season.  

The other returning players on the team will have significant roles as well. Junior Jessica Bianchi (Elmhurst, Illinois) can run the point guard position and will use her quickness to help the Trolls execute their pressure defense.  Last season she led the team and the conference with 2.9 steals per game. She also averaged 2.6 assists, 6.7 points, and 3.1 rebounds. Her contributions to the team will mainly be felt in the second semester as she joins the team late after her soccer season is complete.  Junior Alexis Knake (Cissna Park, Illinois) has two years of experience. She averaged 13 minutes a year ago coming off the bench and will continue to give positive minutes this season. Sophomore Breanna Toppen (DeMotte, Indiana) started in 14 games last season and contributed in a variety of ways. She adds to the scoring possibilities, averaging 6.4 points per game, is a three-point threat, can handle the ball, and fits into the defensive scheme.

Of the newcomers, junior transfer Ally Giampapa (Bartlett, Illinois) will make the most impact. She brings experience as she played two seasons at Olivet Nazarene University (Bourbonnais, Illinois) before sitting out last year at Davenport University (Grand Rapids, Michigan). She is a very good offensive player and knows how to score. She will factor into the starting line-up.

The final group of players is five freshmen who are a solid group of athletes. They will make gains this year and fill in where needed. Of the group Ellie Stevens (Bloomington, Illinois), a 5-9 forward, looks to make the most impact as she will fill a needed position in the post. Adding depth to the forward position are Alyssa Mulligan (LaPorte, Indiana) and Alexis VanRyn (Tinley Park, Illinois). Megan Stubbs (Pleasant Hill, Iowa) and Val Guzman (Braidwood, Illinois) provide addition guard play.

The Trolls have a 30 game schedule which starts on October 26 at home with Andrews University. That game is one of ten non-conference games on their schedule. Five of those games will be played at the start of their season before they begin their conference schedule. The team will face Taylor University, Ohio Christian University, and Mt. Vernon Nazarene University, in December during the semester break.

The CCAC schedule consists of 20 games with all 14 teams of the conference in one division this year. The Trolls will face every team once and play seven of the teams a second time. The conference competition starts on November 15 in a game at Governors State University. The CCAC schedule will be strong again with four teams ranked in the NAIA Coaches’ Preseason Top 25 Poll.  Saint Xavier University, the University of St. Francis, Cardinal Stritch University, and Olivet Nazarene University will be the top teams to beat. The Trolls, who are receiving votes, will meet three of those opponents twice during the season. Overall the conference schedule will be challenging as the teams in the number 5-12 positions will be balanced.