Retooled T-Birds aim to improve on back-to-back Region VI semi-final appearances

Retooled T-Birds aim to improve on back-to-back Region VI semi-final appearances

CONCORDIA, Kansas — The 2017-18 season was a war of attrition for the Cloud County Community College women's basketball team as the T-Birds finished with just eight healthy players when they took the floor in the Region VI Tournament semi-finals against Independence Community College.

Despite the injuries and hardships, Cloud County still recorded its third straight 20-win season (20-11 overall) and for the second year in a row were a mere two wins away from a return trip to the NJCAA DI National Tournament.

Retooled with 11 new faces, and anchored by two talented returners, the T-Birds are hopeful they will be back in the mix for a Region VI Tournament championship and national berth again this winter.

"I think we have the pieces to potentially be a really good team if everyone truly embraces what we're trying to do," said Cloud County head coach Brett Erkenbrack, now in his 30th season with a 654-280 overall record. "That is a difficult thing to have happen for any team anywhere. But we've seen it happen here at Cloud County before (2001 National Champions) and it gives me hope we can do it again."

Leading the T-Birds will be a talented pair of frontcourt returners in sophomores Scout Frame and Mikaela Meyers.

Frame was a Second-Team All-Conference and All-Region selection as a freshman after leading Cloud County in scoring at 15 points per game and in rebounds (7.4 RPG). She also posted a team-high eight double-doubles while etching her name into the school record books on Jan. 10 against Allen County when she became just the third player in program history to score 40 points in a game.

Meyers was used primarily as the sixth-man for the T-Birds, playing in all 31 games and averaging 4.0 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game.

"Both of them will play a large role for us this year. Scout was our leading scorer and rebounder and I think she's capable of putting up similar or even better numbers, while Mikaela has really expanded her game. She gives us length and flexibility to play her inside or on the perimeter," Erkenbrack said.

Meyers and Frame will be joined in the frontcourt was sophomore transfers Cassidy Haufler and Destiny Pittman, as well as a trio of freshmen in Maeson Dewey (Plainville, KS.), Faith Martin (Eskridge, KS.) and Cathryn Whitehead (New Port Richey, FL.)

"We have some different interior pieces that aren't all the same," Erkenbrack said. "We can be a little bigger or be a little quicker and more athletic, play more offensive-minded or defensive-minded depending on what we think we need at the time."

Haufler comes to Concordia after spending last season on the rowing team at Kansas State University, while Pittman was the leading rebounder at Allen County Community College before transferring in this summer.

"I really think Cassidy has the potential to be one of the better interior players in the conference this year," Erkenbrack said. "She's a really good player that is much more physical and strong than some of the post players we've had in recent memory."

As for the backcourt, the T-Birds have assembled five freshmen who will battle for time and replace the vacancy left by the graduation of last season's second leading scorer, Kelsi Mueller.

Freshman Chiara De Virgilio has impressed in the preseason as the 5-foot, 7-inch Argentinian provides some size, skill and shooting ability from the point guard spot.

Cloud County is also hoping for immediate impact from the quartet of Emmiley Hendrixson, a well-rounded guard out of Haven; Chase Siedlik, a high-motor player from Independence, MO.; Lydia Ostenson, an explosive scorer from Tecumseh; and McPherson's Kamryn Collins, a left-handed scoring threat.

"That gives us five guards that I feel real good about playing in any situation," Erkenbrack said. "They're not all point guards, but they can all handle the ball to a certain extent and have pretty good ball skills."

There will be a new wrinkle to the 2018-19 season as the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference (KJCCC), after the additions of Northwest Kansas Technical College and Hesston College, rearranged the East and West divisions. Cloud County moves from the KJCCC West out to the seven-team KJCCC East. The conference season has also been shortened to 20 games after a 26-game schedule a season ago.

The T-Birds have been projected to finish fifth in the KJCCC East according to the preseason Predicted Order of Finish released by the conference and voted on by the coaches.

Cloud County opens the season on the road against North Platte Community College on Sunday, November 4  — the game was pushed from Saturday to Sunday due to playoff volleyball — and play their home opener at 6 p.m. Tuesday, November 6 versus Kansas Wesleyan University JV.

Cloud County will be trying to sort out player roles and develop chemistry quick as it tips off the 2018-19 season with a busy November that includes 11 total games, seven of which will be on its home floor.

"I think we have a very difficult non-conference schedule with the home-and-home against North Platte. We also go to a classic where we play two real good teams in Jefferson College and Western Nebraska, and we play Iowa Western and Southeast Community College here. I think all of those will be challenging games," Erkenbrack said. "Those games will give us an idea of who we are and how we're going to have to play. November will be really important for us and will all happen really fast."