Siloam Springs, Ark. (November 1, 2001) - The 2001-2002 basketball season marks the beginning of the post-Martha Hancock era for Jeff Soderquist as he guides the women's basketball team in his fifth season as head coach at John Brown University. Hancock, who was part of Soderquist's first recruiting class, was the Golden Eagles first ever NAIA Honorable Mention All-American selection last season. She finished her senior season with the second highest three-point percentage in the country (47.6%) and led the Golden Eagles in scoring with 15.2 points per game.
"You can't replace a player like Martha," Soderquist said, "but we are deeper now than we were with her last year."
The depth of the Golden Eagles will be tested throughout the season. The team has a strong non-conference schedule including a match-up with Montana State - Northern, a team that made it to the semifinals at last year's NAIA national tournament. But the real challenge begins after the Christmas break when conference play begins.
"The Sooner Athletic Conference is the premier small college conference in the nation," Soderquist said. "The hardest thing about the SAC is that the bottom team could probably win a first-round game at the national tournament. Every night the team has to come to play. I think this team has the ability to finish in the top half of the conference and go to the national tournament."
Soderquist likes the well-balanced nature of this year's team and sees its depth as a definite strength. Four returning starters have kept the nucleus of the team intact. The play and leadership of senior forward Sophie Voordeckers will be an integral part of the team's success. Last year, the 6'2" Voordeckers was second in scoring (10.3 ppg) and led the team in rebounds (6.1 rpg). She also set a single-season school record with 84 blocks. Junior Katie Elliot was third last year in both scoring (8.2 ppg) and rebounds (5.2 rpg). The 6'2" Elliot is one of the many talented post players on the team who will be asked to help establish an inside presence for the Golden Eagles. Junior guard Lara Keeling, who recorded 96 assists last year, and junior forward Amber Owens, who grabbed 51 offensive rebounds, round out the experience the four returning starters bring. Other players returning from last year include sophomore guard Aubree Schwartz, sophomore forward Bethany Sites, junior guard Saralin Wolfe and junior post Lorraine Otieno.
Soderquist said he was excited about this year's recruiting class, which includes two transfer students and two freshmen. LaTosha Wilson is a transfer from St. Mary's University in San Antonio, Texas. The 6'2" senior's arrival gives Soderquist another weapon in the post. The other transfer is sophomore guard Stephanie Kunego from Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas. Freshman Miranda Allen comes to JBU from Jay, Okla., where her high school team went 35-3 last season. Allen is a versatile player who can play any position. Freshman Michelle Gabbert comes from Rogers, Ark., where she was a point guard for Rogers High school in the competitive 5A-West.