After a year of near-misses, Aurora Christian enters a new season hoping this is the year it turns the corner to the top of the Suburban Christian Conference Gold Division.
Aurora Christian finished 5-5 in conference last year, losing those five games by a total of 17 points. Coach Jerry Tokars hopes a defensive-minded team with some key veterans back can help move those type of close losses into the win column.
Aurora Christian's top returners start with junior guard Alyssa Andersen, who already has two years of varsity basketball under her belt.
Senior Alex Hultine also is back to give Andersen help in the backcourt while junior Melissa Moser returns at center.
"We have a high quality group of young woman that is eager to set new marks in Lady Eagles basketball history," Tokars said. "We expect to compete for the Gold division title and to put our team in position, by February, to break new ground for our program in the state tournament."
Joining the Eagles' returnees is a crop of varsity newcomers that had success on the lower levels last year. The sophomore team finished 16-7 and the freshman 13-3.
Among the new players to watch from those teams are sophomore forward Natasha Brown, sophomore wing Taylor Eaves, junior post Sara Childers, junior wing Liz Smith and junior forward Hannah Dean.
"This team is looking to build on the strides it made last year and should receive help from several players off the successful sophomore and freshman teams," Tokars said. "The desire and confidence is at a high level. We will continue to place an emphasis on being a top defensive team and we will look to use our team speed. The team is young, but talented, and not really interested in waiting another year to take the next big step in the program."
When looking ahead to the conference schedule, Tokars said Immaculate Conception, Marian and St. Francis will be among the teams to beat.
Coach: Jerry Tokars
Last year: 11-15
Key players: Alyssa Andersen (jr, G); Alex Hultine (sr., G); Melissa Moser (jr., C)
Skinny: Eagles hopeful underclass success will translate to more varsity victories