Column: Top returning players for the Panthers

Adam Tumino, Editor-in-Chief

In just a few short seasons, the Eastern women’s basketball team has gone from the bottom of the OVC to a legitimate threat to win the conference.

The Panthers returned to practice Tuesday for the first time this semester. The players who were freshmen three years ago when Eastern went 3-26 in head coach Matt Bollant’s first season are now the senior leaders on a team that went 19-12 last season.

When the season will actually begin is still unknown, but as the Panthers prepare, let’s look back to their breakout season last year and which players should be major factors this season.

 

Karle Pace

This upcoming season will be the last for guard Karle Pace. In her three years at Eastern, she has carved out a career as one of the most accomplished players in the program’s history.

On Feb. 13 against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, Pace became just the 25th player in Eastern history to reach 1,000 career points. She has also upped her scoring average in every season of her career so far, scoring 8.6 points per game as a freshman, 13.9 as a sophomore and 15 as a junior, which ranked fifth in the OVC.

She also ranked second in the conference in three-point percentage (.416), third in steals per game (2.1), 11th in assists per game (3.2) and fourth in assist/turnover ratio (1.4).

Pace was named an All-OVC First Team player last season for the first time in her career.

Taylor Steele

Joining Pace and Grace McRae as one of three players who has been at Eastern since the 2017-18 season, Taylor Steele was once again one of the Panthers’ top scoring threats last season, despite missing 10 games to illness.

Steele finished fourth on the team in scoring, averaging 10.5 points per game. She also ranked third on the team in three-point percentage (.352) and rebounds per game (4.4), pulling down a career-high 13 rebounds on Dec. 1, 2019, against Lipscomb.

 

Abby Wahl

Forward Abby Wahl took a major step forward last season as a sophomore.

She nearly doubled her scoring average from her freshman campaign, raising it from 6.3 points per game to 11.8, the latter of which ranked 13th in the OVC and second on the team.Wahl led the Panthers with 5.4 rebounds per game.

She was also the most efficient scorer on the Panthers, leading the team with a field goal percentage of .464, which ranked seventh in the conference.

Wahl scored a career-high 23 points in the Panthers’ early-season matchup with Big Ten opponent Wisconsin.

 

Lariah Washington

Pace was not the only Eastern player to be named First-Team All-OVC last season. Lariah Washington also received that honor, in addition to being named as the OVC Freshman of the Year.

Washington was third on the team in scoring, averaging 11.2 points per game. This ranked 16th in the conference and made her the highest-scoring freshman in the OVC. Washington also ranked eighth in the conference with a field goal percentage of .463.

She scored 35 points against Murray State on Jan. 30, the second-most points ever scored by an Eastern freshman.

 

Adam Tumino can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]