ANKENY, Iowa—As Monty Kaufman enters his first season as head coach of the Faith Eagles women's basketball team, he couldn't be more impressed with the character and work ethic of his roster in preparation for the season opener, Saturday afternoon at 2:00 p.m., against Free Lutheran Bible School. The game will mark the first official athletic event on the new gym floor.
"I'm really encouraged," said Kaufman. "Basketball-wise, we've got speed, height, and skill. But, I'm also encouraged by their character and their love for the Lord. They are all sweet-spirited, they get along well, and they encourage each other, and love each other. With some of the teams I've had in the past, that usually doesn't happen until the middle of the season, but I feel like that component is already there, which is a great foundation to build on."
Perhaps the most amazing part of that early-season chemistry is the fact that half the team is freshmen—a talented freshmen class, no less, that will add much-needed depth to this year's roster.
Freshman Kenna Laib averaged 16.0 points per game as a senior at Ankeny Christian Academy a year ago and recorded 124 steals, which ranked sixth in the state of Iowa (all classes). She is joined by former ACA teammate, Jen Smith, who is the sister of Bekah Smith, the team's leading rebounder and second-leading scorer from a year ago.
Kaufman plans to utilize 5'11" freshman Anissa Greiner in a "stretch-four" role, with her ability to shoot the three-point shot, and he has been impressed with Morgan Stephens' basketball IQ and vocal leadership. Kaufman loves the speed of Mikayla Whiteford, who is the fastest player on the team and is excited about 5'10" freshman Rachel Kleczka, who will provide much-needed post play and rebounding.
Amanda Wenszell joins the team as a sophomore and was a team captain for three straight years on her high school team in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. Aubree Smith rejoins the team as a junior after sitting out last season. She was the team's fourth-leading rebounder two seasons ago.
Team captains for this year are Michaela Crider, Alicia Smith, and Lyndi Shepard. Faith returns its three top scorers from a year ago and its top three rebounders. Coach Kaufman is so impressed with the depth of his team that he plans to do a lot of mixing and matching early in the season, utilizing his bench often. He believes the strengths of his team are three-point shooting and rebounding. He plans to play up-tempo and employ a full-court press on defense.
The theme for this year's team is "Inspire."
"We want to inspire our own teammates, the fans, and potential recruits by how hard we play and by our unity," said Kaufman.