WEST LAFAYETTE -- Coming off back-to-back appearances in the Division III District tournament, the Ridgewood High Lady Generals are focused on taking it one step further this season.
"We've already talked about it," said RHS head coach Doug Patterson, who enters his 10th year leading the Lady Generals. "Our goal is to get out of the district tournament, not just be satisfied with winning a game. I feel we have a good chance to make a deep tournament run this year."
The Lady Generals lost only one player to graduation, but it was a big loss with Kelsey Miller now playing at the Notre Dame College in Cleveland. Miller led RHS in scoring with a 19 points per game average along with 13 rebounds a contest.
"Kelsey did a lot for us last year," Patterson said. "She was our leading scorer, leading rebounder and also helped bring the ball up the court. We will miss her this year for sure."
Patterson, who has complied a 124-96 career coaching record with the Lady Generals, will have seven returning lettermen in a quest to improve on last year's 12-12 overall and fourth place finish in the Inter-Valley Conference.
Junior Amanda Lowery (6-1 wing) leads the veterans coming back with a 12.2 ppg mark from last year, who along with senior Laura Frazee (5-11 wing/post) are both coming off a successful volleyball season that reached the state tournament and will be counted on to lead the way.
"I look for both Laura and Amanda to come in ready to play," Patterson said. "They are coming off a great volleyball season and both will be key components for us this year. I will look for points and leadership from both of them."
Frazee finished with a 7.3 ppg average last year and also pulled down 5.5 rebounds per outing, while Lowery registered 5.1 rebounds per game last year.
Patterson hopes to use the excitement for the Lady Generals' volleyball run for a good start to the season on the hardwood.
"The girls are still excited coming off the volleyball success," Patterson explained. "I'm confident they will want that winning feeling to continue. As long as we understand that we still have to work hard for that to continue."
Another pair of key senior lettermen returning for the Lady Generals are Emily McCoy (5-11 post) and Erica Olinger (5-8 guard). McCoy checked in at 3.1 ppg and 3.7 rebounds last year, while Olinger scored at a 3.5 ppg mark a year ago and tallied 40 assists.
"Emily worked very hard over the summer on her game," Patterson said. "She has developed a real nice inside post game, I expect her to score like eight-ten points a game for us and help us in the rebounding department."
"We will look for Erica to handle the ball a lot for us," Patterson said. "She has improved her ball handling and appears much stronger and confident in her game. We will count on her to be a steadying force on the court for us."
A final senior returning letterman is Brittany Guilliams (5-7 guard).
"Brittany is a real good team player," Patterson said. "She knows her role and does a great job in a leadership role, the type of player a coach really enjoys having around."
Rounding out the RHS returning letterwinners are junior Baylee Haynes (5-7 guard) and sophomore Morgan McDorman (5-4 guard).
A pair of newcomers in sophomores Kaitlyn Finton (6-1 post) and Kayla Sharier (5-6 guard) each have a chance to make an impact for the Lady Generals this season, according to Patterson.
"Both Kaitlyn and Kayla should get some playing time on the varsity level," he said. "With Kaitlyn, she has some good size with a nice soft touch and also rebounds the ball pretty well."
"Kayla is a nice guard who is quick and not afraid to take the ball to the basket," Patterson continued. "I really like the way she plays the game...no fear in that girl."
Patterson feels that depth will be an area of strength for his Lady Generals this season.
"I feel we will be able to run at least eight kids in a nice rotation this year," he said. "We are much stronger in the depth area this year then we have been for a while."
Patterson also feels that overall size will be an strong area for RHS.
"With our size we should have an edge most nights," the Generals' coach stated. "We should be able to have a nice hi-lo game and our girls also are athletic in addition to their size."
Ridgewood's junior varsity squad will include junior Tea Boyer (5-7 wing), sophomores Lindsay Mullett (5-6 guard), Samantha Wilson (5-9 post) and freshmen Eliza Haynes (5-8 wing), Katie Leitz (5-4 guard) and Autumn Brown (5-7 wing).
Patterson also feels his veteran coaching staff of longtime Ridgewood coaches Darrell Ball and Kirby Shivers is a plus. Ball serves as JV coach with Shivers as a varsity assistant.
In sizing up the race in the IVC, Patterson points to league power Hiland as the team to beat once again.
"You always have to start with Hiland in the IVC," he said. "They just seem to reload each year, while after them I think we will be right there along with Garaway and Sandy Valley. Hiland is just tough, but if we can handle their pressure we could maybe give them a run for their money."