By Matt Turer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
HEAD COACH: D.J. Gutscher
2016-17 RECORD (Big 8): 9-17 (3-4)
2016-17 POSTSEASON: DISTRICT SEMIFINALS: Lost 55-29 to Carl Junction
GRADUATES: Emily Parker, Morgan Montgomery, Courtney Paulsen
RETURNING PLAYERS: Kaylee Huffman (Sr., PG, 5’7”, All-Big 8 2nd Team), Cheyanne Eutsler (Sr., F/C, 6’0”, All-Big 8 Honorable Mention), Emily Moore (Sr., 5’9”, G/F), Ashley Vaught (Jr., 5’2”, G)
NEWCOMERS: Elizabeth Martin (Fr., 5’7”), Naelly Martinez (Fr., 5’6”), Lilly Bodeen (Fr., 5’9”), Aubrey Boatwright (Fr., 5’6”), Brookelynn Sandoval (Fr., 6’0”), Kortney Juracek (So., 5’3”)
There’s another new face at the helm for Aurora for the second consecutive season after Trish Marsh left for the same position at Glendale after one year. Former Willow Springs head coach D.J. Gutscher takes over for Marsh after eight years coaching his alma mater nearly two hours east.
Gutscher was 113-101 (.528) over eight years with the Bears, finished over .500 five times and won a district title in 2014-15. His presence should bring stability back to an Aurora program that has four winning seasons in that same eight-year stretch but hasn’t won a district title since 2011-12.
“I believe stability in any program is important, without stability you are not able to build a strong foundation,” Gutscher said.
“This program has a lot of tradition. I’m looking forward to the challenges that come with creating a culture with high expectations.”
GETTING OFF ON THE RIGHT FOOT
There’s opportunity for Gutscher’s program to make an immediate impact in Big 8 play and district play with a pair of all-conference selections returning in addition to two other impact scorers from 2016-17.
Kaylee Huffman (14.9 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.6 SPG) will again be one of the top scorers in the Big 8 and is an impact player on the defensive end. “She’s a scrappy defensive player who has the ability to take over a game on both ends,” Gutscher said.
While she wasn’t an all-conference selection, Emily Moore (10.4 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.5 APG) averaged double digits as a junior last season and an inside-out threat for the Lady Houns with the ability to connect from anywhere on the floor. “She is a very consistent player who is capable of having a great year with the right mindset,” Gutscher said.
Cheyanne Eustler (6.3 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 1.2 APG, 1.6 SPG) is a long and skilled post player coming off an all-conference honorable mention junior season. “If she continues to gain confidence around the basket she’s poised for a good senior season,” Gutscher said.
Ashley Vaught (6.1 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.2 SPG) is a good shooter and has been putting up a lot of shots this summer and fall. Expect her to be even better after a good junior year on the offensive end, as well as on the defensive side. “Defensively she brings a lot of energy and does a good job communicating,” Gutscher said.
“This group of kids are tough and very competitive,” Gutscher said. “It’s important that our leaders display mental toughness on a daily basis. If they keep the group thinking positive and focused on the big picture it will lead to success for the team.”
The Lady Houns will have a lot of youth on the floor and off the bench with five freshmen and a sophomore currently expected to fill out the rest of this varsity roster.
“We have a solid group of underclassmen that have the potential to step up and fill roles at the
varsity level this season,” Gutscher said. “It will be vital that they trust our process and focus on getting better every day. If they do that it will give us needed depth and build a foundation for the future.”
The sophomore newcomer is Kortney Juracek. The five freshmen are Elizabeth Martin, Naelly Martinez, Lilly Bodeen, Aubrey Boatwright and Brookelynn Sandoval. Sandoval (6’0”) already stands even with Eutsler as the tallest player on this roster.
“They’re hard workers that took advantage of the summer to get in the gym and improve their skills and understanding of the game,” Gutscher said. “We need these girls to continue to improve every day to help add more depth to our roster.”
ADDITIONAL QUOTES FROM D.J. GUTSCHER
On his expectations for this year’s roster: “The expectations for this season are the same for any team I have ever coached: to work hard and play together. I feel like if we do this we will be competitive and be where we want to be at the end of the season.”