The McPherson Lady Bullpups Basketball team looks to increase the success they enjoyed last season, which ultimately ended in a loss to St. Thomas Aquinas in the 5A State Semifinals. The Bullpups have won their league 22 of the last 25 seasons, including the last 12 consecutive seasons. They have qualified for the state-tournament 24 out of the last 27 seasons.
The team loses three starters from last season, Riley Hett (3-year starter), Hannah Hageman (2-year starter), and Maggie Leaf who started as a senior. Jaycee Burghart and Megan Eisenbarth were also rotation players who graduated. The team returns six players from last year: Cassie Cooks (Senior), Lakyn Schieferecke (Senior), Andrea Sweat (Senior), Emma Ruddle (Senior), Grace Pyle (Junior), Kassidy Beam (Junior). They also welcome in five newcomers who are all sophomores: Peyton Howard, Lauren Labertew, Cameron Pelzel, Ella Schmid, Emily Whorton.
There are three seniors who committed to colleges from this roster. Andrea Sweat and Lakyn Schieferecke both committed to Washburn University. Emma Ruddle is committed to Fort Hays University. Cassie Cooks is committed to Graceland University for volleyball.
Coach Chris Strathman agreed to answer some questions about the team before the season:
QW: What is the outlook for the season? How do the Pups look on paper?
CS: We enter the 19-20 season with high expectations and are really looking forward to the season. We have some very quality returners and will look to build the confidence of our newcomers as the season progresses, as that will be a big key for our season success. In Class 5A, I really expect several of the same teams as last year to be really good. 4-Time defending champion St. Thomas Aquinas is always strong and return some very good talent, while other teams from the state tourney should once again be very strong–including Goddard, Maize, Maize South, Blue Valley SW, KC Schlagle, and Topeka Seaman. Wichita Heights moved up to 6A, or they would be a very serious contender on our side of the 5A region. I expect Bishop Carroll and Kapaun Mt. Carmel to also field very strong teams.
QW: What are your keys to fielding a successful team this season? What will be vital in engendering a winning team? Standout players on the team? Who do you look to for leadership on your roster?
CS: Our reserves are not nearly as experienced as our bench players have been in the past, so developing them will be a key for us. I will feel much better about things when we get our starting point guard, Lakyn Schieferecke, back from her ACL rehab. She has really worked hard to get back. We have several girls that have provided leadership for us, and I know what we have in Lakyn as far as a leader. I was also very encouraged by the leadership of Kassidy Beam and Grace Pyle this past summer in our league and tourneys.
QW: What players are you expecting growth from this season?
CS: I think one of the players that can make the biggest leap from last year is actually one of our seniors, Andrea Sweat. She has always been a high potential player, and she is finally entering a season at 100% and should be ready for a good senior season.
QW: What has been your favorite experience in coaching?
CS: I don’t have any one single moment that stands out as the favorite experience in my years as a coach. I have been a part of 7 state title teams (4 as an assistant and 3 as head coach), so you would think those would be the easy answer. I just really enjoy the way each season is different–both in the journey of Nov-March but also in how we try to get the most out of them every year. Each group of girls is different. There have been seasons that have ended in euphoria, and seasons that have ended in heartbreak, but not once have I felt like we didn’t work our very hardest to become as good as we could, and we have also had our teams playing their best basketball at the end of the season. That’s really all you can ask of a coaching staff and a group of young ladies each season…give it your all to reach your ceiling and let the chips fall where they may.