Lady Leafs are thinking big this season

Chris Steele
Sydney Himmelman, left, and Lindsey Francque work on drills 
during practice.

The Geneseo girls’ basketball team starts the season with something every team is looking for — size.

The Lady Leafs have four players listed at 5’10” or taller.

Geneseo’s Jessica Lopez, Sydney Himmelman and Maddie Mackey all have varsity experience.

Adding to the Geneseo bigs will be junior Lindsey Francque who was a matchup problem for teams at the sophomore level last season.

The addition of Francque gives Geneseo more flexibility in its rotation allow Mackey to utilize an inside-outside game.

“It allows us to move Maddie Mackey to the (small forward position),” Hardison said. “Last year, she was inside all the time, so she didn’t get to show her range and shooting ability because of where we needed her to play with the dynamic of the team.”

Hardison said Mackey worked to develop her shooting in the offseason to prepare for this role.

Geneseo lost several key players to graduation off last year’s squad which finished the season 8-22.

Anna Wise was a top-notch defender, and Emily VandeWiele was the Leafs’ first scoring option.

The Leafs will also miss Ashley Kempher and Tasha Olson, who provided defense and size off the bench.

Geneseo’s Himmelman was playing her best ball toward the end of the season and put in the work in the offseason to improve, playing with AAU team in the Quad Cities.

“I think it really opened her eyes to what she can do,” Hardison said. “When you are 6’2” it’s something you can’t teach. She’s figured out she needs to be more aggressive and she needs to attack the rim. She needs to be less selfless and more selfish on the court. I think she’s starting to understand it.”

Geneseo’s Tarah Fisher looks to take the reins as the Lady Leafs senior leader.

“She feels like it’s her team,” Hardison said. “She’s at the point where she can be the leader. She’s not a yell and scream type leader, but she will show you what you need to do and gets people to follow her.”

Geneseo’s shooting guard Renee Rumler is a returning starter who showed she could attack the basket.

The Lady Leafs are looking for their depth to provide a spark this season.

“I think our depth will allow us to play a little bit more up tempo and press a little bit more,” Hardison said. “Our legs won’t be as tired in the second half because it won’t be the same five playing all the time.”

The Lady Leafs season will be centered around its defense and making the opposition work for every point.

“We are going to hang our hat on our man-to-man defense,” Hardison said. “We are going to play it and play it hard. We are going to box out and be up in your shorts defensively.”

LaSalle-Peru is the preseason favorite in the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference with most of its roster returning intact, but Hardison thinks Geneseo is right in the mix along with several other wild cards.

In the opening round of the regional tournament, Geneseo’s Mackey made a 3-pointer to tie the game with seven second remaining.

However, IVC rattled home a bucket with less than a second left to end Geneseo’s season.

The Leafs’ Abigail Zobrist Savanna Anast both handled the ball well at the guard position for the sophomore group last year.

Geneseo’s Morgan May and Paige VandeWiele were solid contributors at the forward position for the Leafs’ sophomores.

“It’s time for to see what this group of juniors can do,” Hardison said. “I think there is a lot of talent and potential in this group. They have two years together at the varsity level to do some things.”