PERU — Despite graduating four seniors from last year’s team which reached the Somonauk Sectional championship, the St. Bede Lady Bruins will look to reload with a core group of seniors returning who saw significant playing time.
According to coach Tom McGunnigal (346-102 in 15 years), the senior captains have taken a real lead in replacing the leadership Whitley Funfsinn, Lydia Stariha, Morgan Dean and Haley Dzierzyski showed. Stariha has taken her basketball talents to Grinnell College while Dean is playing at Sauk Valley.
Returning for the Lady Bruins are seniors Laura Sickley, Lexie Miranda, Sophie Carus, Raley Mauck and Kelsey Thompson.
“Laura had a great summer and is continuing to guide our offense and our team intensity early on,” said McGunnigal of his point guard. “She is a leader by example and will become vocal for us as the season progresses.
“We will be looking for shooters and people who can guard as we go forward, that was one of the biggest things with last year’s group, they could anticipate passing lanes and get into people on the defensive end of the floor.”
McGunnigal is expecting junior guard Holly Gregorich and sophomore post Hanna Bima to contribute to the Lady Bruins effort.
Other squad members include juniors Jasmine Gillan, Emma Perona and Tristin Phegley.
“We aren’t planning on changing too much from what has been working in the past. We’ll put the girls into the spots and let them be athletes and players and let this team make their identity,” said McGunnigal. “We want to play good defense, first and foremost, and hopefully from there we will create some offense. I think we may be a surprise to some people with how good we can actually be.”
Early season strengths for the Lady Bruins are their ability to get along real well as a group by supporting each other and not caring who gets the credit along with some players who have some good basketball sense that McGunnigal believes will help his team go far.
The Lady Bruins will forge into the new Three Rivers Conference in the South Division with Kewanee, Princeton, Hall, Orion, Sherrard and Rockridge.
McGunnigal knows historically the likes of Orion, Sherrard and Rockridge have played some good ball but the challenges are his team will take each game and each day as a challenge to improve themselves and try to play the best basketball at the end of the season like last year.
The Lady Bruins will open the season at the Brimfield tournament by playing LeRoy (Nov. 22), Brimfield (Nov. 23), Kewanee (Nov. 27), Kewanee Wethersfield (Nov. 29) and Princeville (Nov. 30).
“It’s a good test at a great facility,” McGunnigal said. “Aside from Kewanee, it will be teams that we don’t see, and they have always provided us different looks on all ends of the floor. Brimfield will be extremely solid this year and LeRoy is new to the field.”
McGunnigal’s team will play their first home game of the season on Dec. 9 against Rockridge after traveling to Sherrard on Dec. 5.