Having a nearly complete and healthy roster is something head women’s basketball coach Deb Patterson will not take for granted any time soon.
In what was one of the more unique and injury-riddled seasons, Patterson and her coaching staff were forced to use just seven players for over half of last season. Although today marks the beginning of a new season, Patterson says the momentum off of last season’s extraordinary postseason run will play an important part early in the season.
The Wildcats carry arguably one of the youngest rosters in the country with five freshmen and two redshirt freshmen.
“The main momentum from that great postseason run for last year’s team was the example that it serves for those younger players coming in,” Patterson said. “About the standard of excellence, fight, resiliency and the potential there is to succeed with an opportunity to compete.”
Matching up against the Wildcats will be Washburn, the reigning MIAA champions. Under head coach Ron Henry, the Ichabods have routinely stood near the top of their conference and national rankings.
Washburn finished its season at No. 14 nationally in the USA Today NCAA D-II polls.
Much like the Wildcats, the Ichabods will be welcoming several new players to their roster. All five starters from last year’s conference-championship team are gone and they’ll welcome eight newcomers.
This year’s matchup will mark the fourth consecutive season the two teams have met prior to the start of the regular season. K-State has won the three games prior to tonight’s contest and leads the all-time series 5-0.
At the forefront of the new-look Wildcats will be the production of guards junior Haley Texada and sophomore Bri Craig.
Last season the duo combined to average 11.8 points and 8.3 points respectively.
Although neither are seniors, both will be vital assets in leading the young and inexperienced Wildcats.
Perhaps no one is looking forward to this season more than senior forward Katya Leick.
Having sat out consecutive seasons due to transfer requirements and injury, Leick will be an integral part of establishing an interior presence for the Wildcats.
“Kat has come along in excellent form and fashion,” Patterson said. “She’s verbal and plays extremely hard.”
To put the Wildcats’ youth in perspective, the 2013-2014 roster is not only the youngest in Patterson’s 18-year tenure, but also the youngest K-State team since the 1977-78 season.
The Wildcats used underclassmen last season to build depth in the program, but junior guard Ashia Woods believes the added height of the roster will be a difference maker this season. From a roster that consistently played players 5-foot-11 or smaller, the Wildcats now find themselves with five players that stand 6-foot-1 or taller.
“Last year we were all young,” Woods said. “We’re young this year, but with the height I feel like it can make up for some things. We have our experience with Haley, who is a good leader, and Katya, who has had a lot of experience elsewhere. They’re good players on our team that will help our younger players.”