By Jeff Kessinger (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
There’s a youth movement going on at Springfield Catholic, where the Lady Irish — under the direction of second-year coach Jacob Morlan — enter the new season without a senior on the roster.
Fortunately, there is plenty of talent in the younger grades.
“We will be without a senior, so leadership from our juniors will be very important,” Morlan said. “I am excited about the growth of this group and seeing what underclassman will step up into bigger roles.”
Catholic graduated three starters and a pair letterwinners from last year’s club which went 9-16 overall and 4-2 in Big 8 East play. The losses include guards Lily Edwards and Lindsey Murphy, who both earned second team all-conference honors. Fellow starter Olivia Wilson, a forward, has also departed, as have reserves Jaycee Cabasi and Ashley Swaters.
But the cupboard is far from bare for Morlan and assistant coaches Emma Thomas, Jennifer Webster and Erin Koenig. The Lady Irish welcome back a pair of starters and five total letterwinners. One of them is junior Ella Lippelman, who played in 25 games last winter, averaging almost 9 points per game.
“Ella is poised to have a big junior year,” Morlan said. “She started every game for us last year as a sophomore. We will need her to be very aggressive offensively this year.”
Helping out with that defense will be fellow juniors Emily Franklin and Hayley Singleton. Franklin appeared in 17 varsity games a year ago, while Singleton played in 16 contests.
“Emily is our heartbeat on defense and will look to lead us at the point guard position on offense as well,” Morland said. “She is a do-it-all type player for us. Hayley is a strong athlete who is very aggressive defensively. With her athleticism and toughness, she will give us chances to be much more flexible on the defensive end.”
Elizabeth Killion and Samantha Messerly are also back for Catholic.
“(Messerly) battled injuries last year and was very limited in her minutes,” Morlan said. “She has matured into more than just a shooter and is a much more complete player coming into her junior year. (Killion) is also a strong athlete who is very aggressive defensively. With her athleticism and toughness, she will have the opportunity to see more playing time this year.”
The Lady irish junior class will get a boost from a trio of sophomore newcomers. Avery Ahlstrand, Avery Swisshelm and Mallory Wilson are all ready to make the jump to the varsity squad.
“(Swisshelm) is a good shooter who will help us spread the floor,” Morlan said. “She has had a good summer and preseason, and could fight for a starting spot for us. (Wilson) is a tough slasher and can really help us on the offensive end, attacking the hoop and getting to the free throw line.”
And then there’s Ahlstrand, the tallest of the bunch at 5-foot-11.
“Avery is a tall guard that can help us getting to the basket offensively and with her length defensively,” Morlan said.
Catholic, a Class 3 school, plays in the Big 8 Conference East, a challenging conference that could be wide open this season.
“This year, like always, we will look to spread things out and share the ball offensively,” Morlan said. “Our motion offense and how quickly we start making the right reads will be a huge key for us. Defensively we will look to be solid in the half court. With the graduation of the very deep 2019 class, the conference race will be wide open this year. I still think Rogersville and Mt. Vernon are the favorites in our division, but it should be a fun and competitive race down the stretch.”