Lions’ women reload

BASKETBALL: Richter, the NAIA Player of the Year, returns to lead Vanguard’s cast of returners, newcomers.

November 15, 2007|By Barry Faulkner

After losing four talented veterans with a combined 12 seasons of starting experience between them, including two All-Americans and a former NAIA National Player of the Year, one might think the Vanguard University women’s basketball program would be hard-pressed to equal the kind of play that has produced a 125-10 record the last four seasons.

Coach Russ Davis, entering his 12th season with a career record of 289-77, appreciates this thinking, even if he doesn’t necessarily agree.

Davis himself alternates between downplaying expectations for this season and alerting Lions fans of the impending All-American status of a few newcomers.


Heading into tonight’s season-opening meeting with defending national champion Lambuth of Tennessee at the Rotary Classic in Jackson, Tenn., the Lions are ranked No. 2 in the NAIA poll, behind perennial power Union of Tennessee.

But extend the conversation long enough and Davis will eventually become effusive about a roster that includes the reigning NAIA Player of the Year, senior Jessica Richter, as well as two members of last season’s eight-player rotation and a host of newcomers that include a pair of Division I transfers.

Davis also has landed two more players from the Oregon City High program that produced the Lions’ last two point guards, both of whom wound up leading the NAIA in assists three of the last four seasons.

“I see glimpses of ‘Oh, man, we’re going to be good,’ then I see glimpses of ‘Oh, man, we’re young,’ ” Davis said. “But I like the depth of our team and I’m excited about the versatility. I think we’ve got a really good base here for the future ... It’s a young team with only three seniors, so we’re going to get better as we go. But, with all the injuries we’ve had early, I really believe we may get off to a slow start.”

Disappointing finishes have been the issue the last two seasons, when top-ranked Vanguard teams were upset in the NAIA semifinals, including last year’s previously unbeaten squad.

Four-time All-American Kelly Schmidt, the 2005-06 NAIA Player of the Year, has graduated after producing 2,639 points and 1,053 rebounds, both school career records.

Also gone are 6-foot-2 four-year starting center Rachel Besse, two-year starting point guard Tiari Goold and two-year starting wing Lacey Burns.

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