The Eastern women’s basketball team will see action for the first time this season Friday against Illinois-Wesleyan at Lantz Arena in what will be the team’s only exhibition match of the season.
The Panthers will be facing a team that they beat in exhibition play 86-82 last season in what will be the first look at a Panthers team no in its third year under head coach Matt Bollant.
Here are the three things to watch for in Eastern’s first action.
Four of Eastern’s five starters are set in stone. Kira Arthofer will start at point guard, Karle Pace and Taylor Steele will flank her at the other guard spots and Abby Wahl will start at forward. Who starts at the other forward position will be interesting to see.
Junior Grace McRae or senior Jennifer Nehls are the two strongest candidates to get the nod; however, each one has had minor health problems to start the season.
Freshman Morgan Litwiller should also see quite a bit of time at the forward spot, but she will likely not start over Nehls or McRae early in the season.
What to expect out of Eastern’s freshmen.
Bollant said Litwiller could see quality minutes at forward this season but also said that freshman guard Lariah Washington could be the first or second person off the bench in Eastern’s rotation.
Bollant said that Washington is already the team’s best open court player and the guard scored points in bunches at the high school level in Minnesota, winning St. Cloud player of the year her junior and senior seasons.
How her scoring prowess translates into the NCAA will be an interesting dynamic to watch with this Eastern team in not just Friday’s exhibition, but for the length of the entire season.
If Washington scores in college like she did in high school, then she will offer the Panthers a solid third option to go along with the already high-scoring production from Pace and Steele.
Friday should be an early indication of how Washington will look against college competition.
Who leads the team?
Eastern’s leader of arguably the past three season Grace Lennox graduated last year, leaving a vacancy on the team in the role of vocal leader. Bollant said that Pace has filled the role in the offseason, but how that translates to the court will be interesting to see. Pace taking the reigns from Lennox would only make sense, as Pace was the Panthers’ lone preseason all-conference player in the OVC. Pace will likely lead the team in scoring this season; now it just remains to be seen if she can lead them vocally on and off the court in the same way Lennox did.
Eastern and Illinois-Wesleyan tip-off at 6 p.m.
JJ Bullock can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]