WINONA LAKE – Lakeland Christian Academy is coming off a pair of 12-win girls basketball seasons, the best back-to-back years in the history of the program.

Coach Allison Kaufman wants to use those seasons as a foundation to build on for this year and beyond.

“We had a winning season last year, barely” she said. “But we’d like to increase that quite a bit this year.

“We have a conference to play in for the first time this year, and we definitely want to be conference champions. Lakeland has never won a sectional, or even a sectional game, in the girls basketball program. That’s our big goal this year, and something we want to shoot for.”

The Lady Cougars will be led by senior guard Hope Fancil, who led LCA in scoring at 18.5 points a game last season, about half the team’s total.  Fancil started off last year sitting out four games recovering from an injury that limited offseason work.

“It’s been helpful to have her for a full season, and it’s good to see her confidence returning after her injury last year,” Kaufman said. “Over the summer the girls all played together, and kept learning about one another.”

Jess Slone, Anna Reimink, Brady Gross, Abigail Fishel, Maddie Paris and Heather Plastow are all returnees who saw significant playing time a season ago. They will be joined by Tori Calizo, who starred on the Lady Cougar soccer team.

After a stretch of three coaches in four seasons, Kaufman said it’s helped to have the same people in the program entering her third season at the helm.

“We have four of our five starters coming back, and having that varsity experience is definitely going to be key for us this year,” said Kaufman. “Our team chemistry is already going to be there, where in the last couple of years we had to build that with a lot of new faces. This year we have a jump start on that.

“Over the summer we had girls doing individual workouts, and we played in a couple of shootouts where it was awesome to see some of the girls step up and work not only on their shooting, but attacking and playing together on defense as well.

“In those shootouts we got to play against some tough competition, and seeing the girls get the benefits of those individual workouts has been exciting, too.”

Lakeland Christian opens its 2017-18 Tuesday, hosting Cornerstone Prep at 7 p.m.