With the season opener a day away, Three Rivers coach Jeff Walk is reminded of the recruiting class of 2012 that won a combined 43 games. The freshman trio of Erin Bollmann, Anna Vogt and Macy Wright finished one, two, three in scoring as freshmen. Bollmann and Vogt went on to earn All-American status. The class itself holds a special place in Walk’s coaching memories. He said this year’s class has a similar approach to practice and life. There were eight freshmen in 2012. This year there’s nine. The returning players are third year sophomore DeNayia Holmes, who started every game last season, Markeia Porter, Alex Kohler and redshirt freshman Casey Douglas. “The one thing I can say about this group, they play extremely hard on both sides of the ball,” Walk said. “If they aren’t scared to death, we are going to be alright.” Three Rivers hosts Lindenwood-Belleville JV at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, the first of 15 home games in the final season at the Bess Activity Center. Walk expects some first game jitters with the program returning four players, only three of whom had any playing experience last season. In practice recently they have been working to fine tune ball screens and some defensive schemes for opponents down the road. The Lady Raiders beat Lindenwood by 60 in last year’s season opener. “Trying to get he offense more in tune and in time,” Walk added.
In recruiting the class, which took nearly 12 months, Walk and assistant coach Alex Wiggs focused on recruiting players from winning programs because winning is hard to teach. As a consequence, Three Rivers has a group with a ready skill set and a high knowledge of the game. Walk said the freshmen are neither ahead nor behind schedule in their progression, but “We didn’t know they would have it as soon as we would get it out of them. Very high skill set from the majority of them.”
While the team didn’t keep stats during the preseason, Walk did mention that in the team’s six preseason games, he only had to call one timeout to get the team to give more effort, and he believes that speaks volumes about them. Walk declined to say who his starting five will be for the season opener, but it was picked out. The entire team will be eligible to play, as well. The Lady Raiders play their first five games at home, including 3 p.m. matchups Saturday and Sunday against Olney Central and Southeastern Illinois. After the extended home stand, the Raiders will have just two home games — on Dec. 2 and Dec. 5 — until hosting their first Region XVI game against Moberly Area on Jan. 27.
Scott Borkgren - Daily American Republic