The Alice Lloyd Lady Eagles are coming off a historical year. Picked in the 2017 preseason to be near the bottom of the 13 team pack, the Lady Eagles shocked the conference by winning the Western Division of the River States Conference and advancing to the championship game of the RSC Conference Tournament where they fell in the final minute to nationally ranked University of Rio Grande (OH). For their efforts, they were rewarded with the programs first-ever bid to the NAIA National Tournament, held in Sioux City, Iowa. Although their season ended at the hands of #2 College of the Ozarks (MO), they finished the season with a sparkling 24-6 record. In the process, Coach John Mills was named RSC Conference Coach of the Year. Additionally, twin guards Kayla and Miranda Wilson were named first and second team All-Conference respectively, as well as NCCAA All-Mideast Region after dominating the league’s statistical categories all season.
Unfortunately, the Wilson sisters have finished their tenure, but the good news is Coach Mills is not left with a bare cupboard as he returns a wealth of experience. In addition to returning his top two scorers in sophomore forward Haley Hall (14.5ppg; 5.8 rpg; preseason All-Conference) and fellow sophomore Alex Clifton (13.5ppg; 6rpg), last year’s 6th man of the year. He also brings back starting center, 6’0 senior Emilie Harrell, (6.1ppg; 3.8 rpg; 88% free throw %) as well as starting forward, junior Jayla Spurlock (7ppg; 3.1 rpg). The other senior on the squad, Courtney Vazquez (6.2 ppg; 84.9 free throw percentage) played significant minutes and brings a lot of experience as well.
To continue to contend for a title, however, the veteran coach knows that other members of the team will have to step up and make major contributions. Fortunately, other returners who played valuable roles last year are back and ready to boost the club again this season. These include sophomores McKayla Akers, Shelby Davis, Ali May, Erin Jackson, Hope Kelly, and Hope Lafferty.
Newcomers to watch for include guards Katie Moore, and Hannah Kash, as well as forwards Bailee Brainard, who missed all last season with a knee injury, Allison O’Hair, Cheyenne Tolliver, and Jana Jarvis.
“I really like the players that we have with this team.” said the veteran coach. “Last season was a wonderful experience for these ladies and I think they are hungry for more. Our main objective this year is to be highly competitive just as we were last season. However, to be a contender, you have to be able to string together consecutive good years, so I consider 2018-19 to be a statement to show where we are as a club and which direction we are heading.”