Column: Freshmen stepping up for women’s basketball team

Kaitlin Cordes, Women's Basketball Reporter

A loss handed down by none other than first-place Belmont could not stifle the fiery energy of freshmen guards Taylor Steele and Karle Pace.

In fact, the two underclassmen were the Panthers’ leading scorers with 13 points apiece. Pace and Steele also led in rebounds with Pace pulling down a team-high six rebounds and Steele tying freshman forward Grace McRae at five boards.

It is exactly that kind of play that convinces Eastern coach Matt Bollant to continue to start the two freshman. Bollant said Pace has just the gusto needed to fill the void left in senior guard Grace Lennox’s absence.

“She plays defense. She talks. She’s got some guts. That’s the sort of things that I like to see out there,” Bollant said.

Pace has continuously shown that she is unafraid of challenging an opponent and taking matters into her own hands. She sits at 19 steals on the season, second only to sophomore guard Danielle Berry (31) and tying with Steele.

Bollant said Steele and Pace have brought a new energy to the team’s defense.

“I think (Pace) and Taylor, they’re two of our better defenders as freshman. They’re not just out there stepping up (and) making shots. They’re guarding down there as well,” Bollant said.

Their offensive game is not anything to scoff at, either. In her 282 minutes of game play thus far this season, Pace is 34-92 from the field and is shooting 50 percent from the free throw line.

Steele has been a force at the free throw line, too, making 32 of 41 free throws attempted. She is also shooting .37 percent from the field.

Steele has also scored in double digits in every conference game the Panthers have played so far. She was Eastern’s leading scorer against Austin Peay and Tennessee State and pulled down as many as 19 points twice in that five-game stretch.

While their stats continue to improve game-by-game, Steele said she and Pace struggle to gain footing as the team’s pacemakers.

“I feel like sometimes it’s hard because it’s hard to get the upperclassmen to look at us to be leaders because we just came in. I think that’s what Karle and I are planning to do on the court talking wise and everything else,” Steele said of the two’s role as communicators on the court.

While team chemistry is not lacking, communication is, as Bollant pointed out following the team’s recent loss to Belmont. Steele and Pace can certainly be the remedy to that problem.

If Steele and Pace’s performances thus far this season are any indication of the team’s future, the team will be in good hands.

Kaitlin Cordes can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]