Game 20  JAN 17 MON 8:30 pm  Walsh Jesuit Warriors vs. Hiland Lady Hawks

By Dave Mast

Walsh Jesuit graduated a lot of talent from last year’s Div. II Final Four team, which finished the season 23-3. But what hurt the Warriors more than that was the loss of a junior superstar, who transferred out and made Walsh Jesuit’s chances of a repeat trip to Columbus all the tougher.

Highly regarded point guard Rachel Theriot, who is as talented of a junior guard that there is in the state, left Walsh to go to Midpark, leaving the Warriors in need of a point guard.

Theriot’s leaving meant that Walsh Jesuit will now move from a get-up-and-down-the-floor team that ran the ball in a fast-paced offense, to more of a half-court set offense that will run through a pair of big post players. Liz Reeves, a 6-foot-0-inch big body underneath, will command a great deal of attention this season from opponents’ defenses. Gone to graduation is Nneka Offodile, who took her game to Loyola University in Maryland. They also lost Kara Goliat, the heart and soul of the team, along with three other seniors, but the cupboard isn’t totally bare for the Warriors.

Returning with Reeves are juniors Maddie Sheppard, a 5-foot-9-inch guard, and 5-foot-8 guard Courtney Iacobacci. They are joined by 5-foot-7-inch sophomore Sandra Yu, a defensive wizard who played the sixth man role last year, but will be asked to assume a much larger role in this year’s version of the Warriors.

All three of these kids played significant roles on that Final Four team last year, and they can play,” said Tom Jenkins of OGBR. “Reeves should present an interesting match-up for Hiland’s Hannah Stoneman. She’s got great hands and can run the floor well.”

“If we can’t stop her, it could be a long night for us,” said Hiland coach Dave Schlabach, who will alternate using Stoneman, Bria Coil and a number of other bigs who will be there to help defensively against Reeves.

Now entering his fourth season at the helm of Walsh Jesuit, head coach Pete Zaccari has fashioned an impressive 64-15 mark.

Schlabach will undoubtedly use a great deal of the Hiland full-court pressure to try to generate some easy buckets. Still in the process of finding scoring options, the Lady Hawks are trying to overcome a great loss to graduation themselves, having seen a quintet of fine scorers and leaders on the floor leave via graduation.

Defensively, the Hawks are strong, with a number of hard-nosed players who will grind it out on the defensive side of the ball. Seniors Arrianna Schrock and Ashley Weaver, and juniors Meagan Hall, Regan Miller, Melissa Mast, McKenzie Miller, Stoneman and Coil, as well as sophomore Kendra Schlabach give Hiland plenty of depth, as Schlabach, who has amassed a mind-boggling mark of 421-60 in his 19 years at the helm of Hiland, will continue to run kids in and out of the line-up like  ants at a picnic, but one thing he will have to heed this season is staying with the player who has the hot hand on the offensive end.

“We need to find our scorers,” said Schlabach. “Defensively, I think we’ll be fine, but at some point we are going to have to put the ball in the hole to win games. This should be a fantastic challenge for us. Walsh Jesuit is a strong, physical team that will present a huge challenge for us.”