The College of the Ozarks’ Lady Bobcats are prepared to get the 2016-2017 season underway with head coach Becky Vest, who has amassed a notable 79-24 record in her first three seasons.
The Lady Cats finished strong last season with a 28-5 record, making their 15th consecutive appearance in the NAIA DII National Championships in Sioux City, Iowa. Qualifying for the national tournament continues to be one of the Lady Bobcats primary objectives, and with all but one senior returning, the Cats are hopeful they will be successful in once again achieving their goal.
Leading the Lady Cats this season will be senior guard Hannah Wisdom and senior forward Maggie McMenamy. Wisdom earned All-American Honorable Mention and A.I.I. All-Conference and Defensive Player of the Year honors last season while averaging 11 points and 3.6 rebounds per game. Hannah is a tough player that possess a never-back-down attitude and will set the tone both offensively and defensively for the Lady Cats this season. McMenamy, who shot 50% from the field and 71% from the line in 2015-16, averaged 6.2 points and 3.2 rebounds per game. She rarely makes a mistake on the court and brings an impressive jump shot to the team. Maggie is a great leader and is often the glue that holds the team together.
Junior post Lakin Simmerman averaged 11.3 points per game last year and snared 177 boards. Having shot the team’s highest field goal percentage last year at 58.7%, Lakin brings a great deal of confidence into the season and ought to once again play a vital role at the post position. Fellow junior guard Shelby Roberts shot 78% from the line last season while averaging 5.2 points per game. She has worked hard this summer on enhancing her offensive skills and is expected to continue her dominance on defense for the Lady Cats. Madison Wells will change positions as she moves to the post, and she is expected to make a strong case for playing time.
Returning this season is a talented sophomore class that looks to make some noise for the Cats. Shooting guard Cassidy Johnson led the team in 3-point shooting last season and put in some serious work this summer to make a strong case for a starting position, improving many aspects of her game. Kelsie Cleeton is an all-around player that led the Lady Cats in rebounds (199), assists (90), and steals (62) last season and will be hard to keep off the floor. Madisen Brethower will battle for a starting job this season with her basketball intelligence and versatile play. Tristen Underdown will also see a move in positions as she will transfer to post this season. Having made significant improvements in the offseason, Underdown will likely see an increase in court time. Rounding out the sophomore class is newcomer Aleksei Smith. Smith worked with the team last season and earned a spot for the coming year. She is a tremendous worker that will play tough when she takes the floor.
While the Lady Bobcats will certainly miss last season’s 2nd Team All-American Brandy Uchtman and her 13.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, Coach Vest is confident her returners, combined with an impressive class of incoming freshman, will work together to fill Uchtman’s void.
Vest has recruited some first-rate talent to enhance the already successful legacy of the Lady Bobcats. Branson native Ashley Forrest brings skilled offensive abilities to the court and can take the ball hard to the basket. Jessica Estes from Miller High School has the makings to become a great player. She has all the needed tools and is very coachable. Both were leaders on their high school squads and possess a great work ethic. Look for both of these ladies to earn some court time this season.
With a strong and talented team, the Lady Bobcats are expecting to make a big impact in the NAIA and NCCAA this season.