Photos by Brian Zavala.
SAN ANTONIO (Oct. 27, 2011) -- Last year, the Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) women's basketball team had a good overall season. In the regular season, the Lady Saints won 20 games and lost nine. In conference, they had 16 wins and six losses. They placed third losing to LSU-Shreveport in the quarterfinals of the Red River Athletic Conference (RRAC) tournament.
"We achieved a lot," says Head Coach Rusty Kennedy. " I couldn't be more pleased by the character and the effort the young ladies gave. Win 20 games, finish third with a new coach and a new system was quite a tribute to them."
Kennedy is in his second year as head coach of the women's basketball team at OLLU, but he is no stranger to the game or to the position. He has coached for Clarendon College and Central Baptist College, among others. This is his 14th year as a head coach of college basketball, and this year, he and third-year assistant coach Chris Minner, are working on their team's competitiveness, drive and skill, while concurrently, helping the individual player discover her role in the game and to embrace it.
The team has 15 certified players on the roster. Five are returning and 10 are new to Our Lady of the Lake. The five returners are a solid group who provide good leadership for the new ones. The highlight of the returners is junior Stacey Darnley, who last year was given the 2010-2011 RRAC All-Conference Second Team honor. The only senior on the team – Jasmine Fuller – received RRAC All-Conference Honorable Mention Team honors last year. Others returning are juniors Alisha Crump, Ashley Hicks and Jennifer Davison.
The coach says it's too early to single out one or two new dominant players, but it could be either of the Sacramento City College-transfers Treshenia Solomon (6'4" junior center) (pictured at left) and Nikkia Davis (5'5" junior guard). Kennedy believes that once they start playing, a new player will rise up as the key player.
Other new additions include freshmen Arlene Cisneros (5'5 guard, San Antonio, O'Connor HS), Stephanie Nuñez (5'7" guard, Edinburg, Edinburg HS), Nashae Owens (5'7" guard, Pearland, Alvin HS), Ashley Charles (6'2" forward, Houston, Eisenhower HS); sophomore Chelsea Solis (5'8"guard, San Antonio, Wagner HS); and juniors Taylor Bonnewell (5'8" guard, Tuttle, Okla., Clarendon JC), Ali Bills (5'9" guard, McAllen, Odessa JC) and Chelsea Kellogg (5'8" guard, Waldron, Ark., Connor SC).
Coach Kennedy is excited about the start of the new season. He has many expectations from his team, but foremost, his number-one goal is to make the conference tournament. There are 13 teams in the league and only eight make the conference playoffs. A big competitor last year was Langston University. Usually ranked in the top 15 nationally, they have won the conference four years straight. Kennedy explains, "We got seven or eight really good teams on our league who can all beat each other, so it's going to be quite a dogfight."
With the team placing third last year and fifth the year before that, the coach is very confident that the women are going to have a similar outcome this year. "I think we should be a top-five team in the conference. No doubt about it."
In the 2011-2012Preseason Coaches' Poll released early in October by the conference, OLLU is picked to finish third along with Southwestern Assemblies of God University, behind Langston and Texas Wesleyan.
The Lady Saints play their first game on Nov. 4 in Muskogee, Okla. (Bacone Classic) against Haskell Indian Nations University. After a non-conference home opener against Sul Ross State University on Nov. 21, the Saints will begin their conference schedule on Nov. 28 at 5:30 p.m. against Wiley College.
The NAIA Champions of Character program aims to instill five core values in NAIA athletes, coaches: respect, responsibility, integrity, servant leadership, and sportsmanship. Our Lady of the Lake University shares and supports these values and strives to promote the Champions of Character program by working with students, coaches through our Champions of Character educational program. For more information on the Champions of Character program, click on the logo below: www.championsofcharacter.org.