WINONA LAKE, Ind. - Seven months after the conclusion of a record breaking campaign for Grace College’s women’s basketball team, the Lancers are just days away from tipping off the highly anticipated 2023-24 season.
Last year Grace’s program was elevated to new heights as the veteran laden squad led the Lancers to numerous program records which included the most wins in team history (24). Grace also made the NAIA Tournament for the first time ever as a No. 12 seed.
“This has been the best five year stretch in program history, said Grace head coach Dan Davis. “It was a steady climb for us to get to that point, and was great for our program to finally breakthrough and get the national recognition that we have worked so hard to achieve.”
The Lancers made the most of their opportunity on the national stage, with an 83-53 drubbing of fifth seeded Pikville.
“Probably the most important thing for us right now is to know that last season is last season," said Davis. “Both the good and bad. Faces change, but our culture and standards will remain the same. This is a team that can’t rely on what was accomplished last season, but has to form their own identity find there own way to win ball games ”
One of the players that will help uphold the Lancers high expectations is 5th year senior Maddie Ryman.
Ryman, who gained an extra year of eligibility due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, led Grace in scoring last year (15.9) and is just 196 points shy of Grace’s all-time scoring record and 215 points shy of becoming the school’s first 2,000 point scorer. Ryman also ranks top five in assists (324) and 3-point shots made (240).
“Maddie has been the heart and soul of this program for years,” raved Davis. “She is fiercely loyal to this program and her teammates. She is already one of the all-time greats and I am so thankful that I get another year to be her coach.”
Grace also returns Kaylee Patton and Peyton Murphy who started in all but one game together a season ago.
“Kaylee and Peyton are both such strong leaders on and off the court,” Davis commented on the duo. “Kaylee will be a four-year starter and Peyton is such a tough player, both of them will have much bigger roles in what we do as a team this season.”
Patton and Ryman are Grace’s lone graduating seniors.
Fellow returners Kate Rulli, Kensie Ryman, Bekah Marshall and Molly Long are also expected to have an expanded role this year.
“For these four ladies, it's their turn to start making an impact,” Davis said. “They have earned this opportunity through all their hard work and dedication to the program and I expect big things from them this season.”
The Lancers also welcome a quartet of new faces to fold, this season. Morganne Houk, Lily Moore, Brooke Blaszczy and Faith Mauger.
“These four ladies are so coachable,” Davis said. “They have a tremendous skill level already and have shown the toughness needed to win this league.”
On the floor Davis expects his squad’s quickness and versatility to make an immediate impact, noting that the speed in which Grace will play is much faster than a year ago.
“In many ways this team reminds of the 2019-20 team,” Davis said. “We have a lot of players that can shoot the ball really well and defensively we can press all the way up the floor and have no problem switching defensive assignments.”
Despite skill and potential that Davis sees with this team, perhaps the things that excites him the most is maturity and leadership skills that these players possess.
“We have such strong leaders in our returners, this may be the best player led in my tenure,” Davis noted. “They all know what the standard is and are not allowing anything or anyone to distract from it, and I can’t wait to get this season started.”
The Lancers earned votes in the NAIA Top 25 Preseason Coaches’ Poll and currently boasts five top ten matchups on their schedule. Grace has home-and-home matchups against No. 4 IWU, No. 5 Marian and will travel to Montana for a pair of games that includes a matchup against No. 6 Carrol.
The Lancers season opener is Saturday at 12 p.m. Grace will travel to Richmond to take on IU East. The Lancers home opener is on November 7th against Roosevelt.