Lady Pilots break into NAIA Top-30
December 07, 2005
Shreveport, LA---At any level in athletics, first year programs are expected to struggle out of the gate to some extent. Such was the case with the LSUS Lady Pilots who made their return to the NAIA Division I women’s basketball scene in 2003-2004. With Head Coach Ronnie Howell at the realm, the Lady Pilots collected an 8-21 overall record which included a 4-14 record in the highly recognized Gulf Coast Athletic Conference. With perennial powerhouses such as the University of Mobile, Xavier University, and Loyola University who have all made national tournament appearances in the past three years, it has been a tough hill to climb for the Lady Pilots.
The Lady Pilots however showed signs of being a possible contender in the GCAC throughout the 2004-2005 season with wins against Xavier and Loyola who were amongst the Top-25 in NAIA hoops, and collected an LSUS record 13 wins, finishing with a 13-20 overall record before bowing out to UM in the second round of the GCAC Conference tournament.
After two years of implementing a new system with a core of athletes that consisted of a majority of freshman and sophomore players, the 2005-2006 version of the Lady Pilots have compiled a 6-2 record and have found themselves among the Top-30 women’s basketball programs in the country.
“I have to admit that I was very excited to see us amongst the Top-30 teams in the country. It really makes you feel good when your hard work starts to be recognized at the national level,” comments Howell.
With the only two blemishes on the Lady Pilots record being against NCAA Division I Centenary College and NCAA Division III East Texas Baptist University, Howell believes that the success of last years team against Top-25 teams has had a possible carryover effect to this season.
“We showed last year that we had a lot of talent, but we were young, inconsistent, and not as deep as most of the teams in our conference. I believe this year we have added some much needed athleticism with girls who can play on both ends of the floor, and we have a much stronger bench than we have ever had which allows us to play 12 or 13 players each night,” said Howell.
Jessica Kelley, a 5’8 junior guard who transferred from Southern Arkansas University has been a huge addition to this year’s squad averaging nearly 16-points per game. Junior transfer Moche Roque has also stepped up for the Lady Pilots with her 12 points per game, while two-time All-GCAC junior guard Renalda Stafford has not put up the same scoring numbers from her freshman and sophomore seasons when she averaged 15.0 points per game, but she has pushed her season average to 9.7 points after recovering from an early season injury which kept her out of the Lady Pilots home opener.
“We have definitely developed a more rounded scoring attack and do not have to rely on just one or to people to score the basketball. But more importantly, I think the girls are really starting to buy into the fact that we need to work hard every trip and win games on the defensive end of the court,” comments Howell.
As the Lady Pilots sit at 6-2 on the season, they will have a chance to take on NCAA Division I opponents UL-Lafayette and Northwestern State University in exhibition contests which will serve as excellent preparation for the LSUS Lady Pilot Classic which will be held at The Dock in Shreveport December 16th and 17th.
“This is a small reward for our girls who have worked very hard. But ultimately you need to win games which is no easy task in the GCAC,” concluded Howell.