The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

March 26, 2014

MSSU women take step forward in Hubbard's first year

— Missouri Southern’s jump from eighth place to fourth place in the MIAA women’s basketball standings undoubtedly came as a surprise to many.

However, Lions coach Ronda Hubbard was surprised only once.

“I was surprised we played poorly in Kansas City,” Hubbard said, referring to the 78-57 season-ending loss to Fort Hays State in the MIAA Postseason Tournament.

“I wasn’t surprised the way this team came together. “I knew what we had, knew what we had coming back. I knew we would do better than the year before because the players made a commitment last March. ... The two key things were developing leadership and developing respect for the league, and I believe we did both of those.”

The experience gained by 10 new players in the program last season paid great dividends. Center Dominique Mosley earned first team all-MIAA honors — just the Lions’ fourth first-team selection in the last 18 years — and her 15.3 scoring average ranks third during the past 10 seasons behind Jasmine Lovejoy (18.2 average in 2010-11) and Vonny Wilson (15.8 in 2003-04).

“ ‘Domo’ was not just a key player for us but an emotional leader for us,” Hubbard said. “When she was on, she was on. When you use the term gamer, that when the lights are turned on someone is ready to play, that’s pretty much ‘Domo.’ ’’

Shonte Clay averaged 10.8 points while sharing time at center with Mosley. Sophomore Sharese Jones (13.7) and junior Nicole Hartzog (10.5) also made great improvement from the previous season.

“I was so impressed with ‘Winkie’s (Jones’) consistency all year long,” Hubbard said. “There were games that she struggled but not very many.”

Hartzog, who was second in the league in steals, missed three games with a knee injury, and the Lions lost all three — at Southwest Baptist and two games to league champion Central Missouri.

“We missed her competitiveness, her defensive prowess and her scoring ability,” Hubbard said. “As soon as she returned to the floor, we started playing better.”

New point guard Alexis Fitzpatrick had 95 assists and 66 steals, and senior guard Samantha Soyez also had 95 assists. As a team, the Lions made 232 steals, 63 more than their opponents.

The Lions had no problems adjusting to Hubbard becoming head coach after spending 12 seasons as an assistant under Maryann Mitts.

“Coach Mitts and I are polar opposites personality-wise,” Hubbard said. “That was a big change for them, and they embraced the change pretty well. I’m not a rah-rah girl. I believe I am motivational. I can give the motivational speeches.

“Maryann walks with passion. I have the same passion ... it just exudes from me in a different way. Even though our personalities are so different, our coaching philosophies were the same.”

The Lions’ recruiting class began last November with four signees — guard-forward Jordan Dinyer from Hallsville High School, guard Kayla Kivinski from Port Richey, Fla., forward-center Jenson Maydew from Pratt (Kan.) and guard Dru Clark from Sand Springs, Okla. And Jolee Sharp, a shooting guard from Fort Scott, is expected back after missing all of this season with a knee injury.

The Lions have received a verbal commitment from a fifth high school player, Hubbard said. They hope to land three more players, most likely junior college or NCAA Division I transfers.

“We have a great nucleus coming back, potentially four starters,” Hubbard said. “Our big focus (in recruiting) will be in the post.”

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