Lady Braves rebuilding for success

The beginning of a new season is always an exciting time for any team no matter the sport. The playing field is even and every program has the opportunity to become a championship team regardless of the past.

With a roster full of talent and an experienced coaching staff, there’s plenty of reasons for the Lady Braves to be excited about the opportunity they have in front of them. But first, let’s go back three seasons ago when excitement was very hard to come by for this program.

For a program who takes pride in their history of success, the 2012 and 2013 seasons were anything but exciting for the program. The Lady Braves managed to only win six games during the 2012 season, and unfortunately times would get even tougher the following season.

The Lady Braves began the 2013 season with only eight players on the roster, and eventually that number would drop to three players due to injuries and even illnesses. The Lady Braves had no choice but to forfeit six games in January and early February.

The program would end the season with a 1-18 record, the one win resulted from a forfeit from Southeastern Community College for using an ineligible player during the Lady Braves season opener. Following two disappointing seasons, the program decided to part ways with Head Coach Karen Boyd, and so the rebuilding process began for the program.

Darren Bizarri, head coach of the men’s basketball team, was named the interim coach for the Lady Braves while the program began their search for a new head coach. The program then hired Danielle Osterhaus to be the lead assistant coach for the 2014 season, which included coaching games and leading practices for the team.

Osterhaus, who played for the Lady Braves from 2001 to 2003, helped lead the program in the right direction as they finished the 2014 season with a 10-15 record. The improvements the program made in just one season helped Osterhaus earn the head coaching position, which was made official last February.

With only three players returning from last season, Osterhaus and her coaching staff spent the off-season rebuilding the programs roster. Osterhaus made an emphasis this off-season on recruiting players from or relatively close to the Quad Cities area and who are outstanding students as well.

Ten out of the eleven players on this year’s roster are either from or within an hour drive of the QC area. The idea behind recruiting locally is so the players have a strong support system around them not only from within the team but also from their family and friends.

“We have parents traveling with us two to three hours for our jamborees to see their ladies play which is an awesome thing to have for the program,” Coach Osterhaus said.

The Lady Braves are a relatively young team this year with six freshman on the roster and only three returning players from last season. One of the returning players, sophomore Charmaine Clark, was with the program last year, but missed the entire season with an ACL tear.

With so many new faces, the players and the coaching staff have been working all off-season learning to play as a unit. Coach Osterhaus is confident that once the team becomes accustomed to playing with one another they have the athletes to be a 20 plus win program this season.

The Lady Braves will be led by their three captains, who were elected by the coaching staff, Erin Morrissey, Rayven Morrow, and Libby Frye.

Erin Morrissey is a sophomore transfer from the University of Dubuque. For Coach Osterhaus, Morrissey was an easy choice for captain because she has the persona of being a leader, she does every drill first, and every player looks to her for answers.

While attending Dubuque University, Morrissey received a phone call from Zoe Kelso, who played for the Lady Braves last season. Kelso explained to Morrissey that the program was turning around and Coach Osterhaus was doing a great job coaching and recruiting for the program. The next thing Morrissey knew she was talking to coach and was then offered a scholarship to play for the Lady Braves.

Morrissey takes a lot of pride in being one of the captains on the team. She enjoys having the type of presence on the court where her teammates will follow her lead, and she embraces the opportunity to help them as well. The 6-foot center also takes pride in protecting the post, which she calls “my paint”.

“That’s my paint and I’m not going to let anyone come in and push me around,” Morrissey said.

Unfortunately, Morrissey is not eligible to play until January due to not having enough transfer credits.

In the meantime, Morrissey plans on encouraging and helping her teammates from the sideline anyway she can, as well as continuing to work hard in practice to make sure she’s ready for her return in January.

The Lady Braves started the season with an 82-68 victory over Morton College. Hannah Ford led the team with 27 points and Rayven Morrow was second in scoring with 22 points.

The Lady Braves then improved to 2-0 defeating Lincoln College on the road 65-59. Ford and Morrow led in scoring for the second straight game as Morrow put up 18 points and Ford contributed 15 points.

The team suffered their first loss of the season last Saturday night against Lincoln Land College as they were defeated 65-61.

The next test for the Lady Braves will be on the road against Rock Valley College, before the team competes in the Carl Sandburg College Classic this upcoming weekend.