For almost half a decade, they were staples on the Northeastern State roster. Taylor Lewis, Tosha Tyler and Sarah Green made an impact from the day they stepped on campus, right up until they graduated last season.
On last season’s team, Lewis, Tyler and Green made up 56.9 percent of the RiverHawks’ offense. Each averaged at least 29 minutes of playing time per game.
Now, with NSU set to open its 2013-2014 campaign against West Texas A&M in Fort Smith, Ark., today, the RiverHawks have to find new sources of offense, defense and, well, pretty much everything else.
So who do they turn to?
“Ya know, I don’t know,” NSU coach Randy Gipson said. “I don’t know where this team is, really.”
Players on the 2013-2014 roster that have worn RiverHawk jerseys in the past include Carrington Fox, Chelsey Beathard, Fontana Tate, Melissa Jones, Kate Bellamy and Courtney Cowan — who only played in one game last year before getting hurt and redshirting her freshman campaign.
Beathard — known as Chelsey Stricklen last year — and Tate return as NSU’s leading scorers at 6.2 points per game. Fox returns as the team’s supreme rebounder at 4.3 a contest.
Not much production returning. But Gipson is well aware of that.
“Those guys are going to have to take on bigger roles,” Gipson said of Beathard, Tate and Fox.
More impact roles could fall squarely on the shoulders of some freshmen this year for the RiverHawks, who went 19-8 last season. The plethora of newcomers includes Jamie Jackson, Che’Ron Lewis and Mya Walker — all of which stand five feet, seven inches or taller.
“We’ll look better warming up this year than we have in the past,” Gipson said. “These kids are stronger and they move well. The ingredients are all there from them to be good players.”
What won’t change for Gipson is his trademark approach to games: grind through possessions on offense and play bruising defense on the other end.
“It’s all about (the players) meshing together and playing in a systematic way,” Gipson said. “We have to get everybody to conform to how our program, methods and goals. Right now, we don’t have that because it takes time.”
It’ll certainly be a year in uncharted territory for Gipson and Co., who were picked to finish sixth in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association’s preseason polls.
“I think it’s kind of a year of redefining ourselves,” Gipson said. “We graduated three kids that had been central to what we’ve done for at least the last three years. They’re gone and I think that now our team is going to take on a new personality.”