A young roster, coupled with the loss of seven seniors from the 2018 squad, has forced the Hatters to make some changes for the new season. So, what is Stetson changing?
“Everything,” Leach said. “We’ve spent a lot of time implementing a good bit of new stuff we haven’t done before. Our game became a lot faster last year with self-starts, so we need to keep up with that change and be more fit. We’ve been focusing on playing faster and thinking quicker. Thinking the next step ahead is something we’ve been focusing on a lot this preseason.”
The one area where perhaps the Hatters haven’t had to make as many changes is along the back line. Stetson returns the bulk of its defense from last season, including Sarah Trupp, Taryn Cook-Grisewood, Emily McGowan, Christina Nikolai andAnne Ryan Lanz.
“All of our defenders are returning, so we’ve been able to add new things pretty quickly with that group,” Leach said. “Any time you add new people, you find new strengths and new weaknesses that you try to change and modify to fit what’s best for that team.”
Stetson’s top returning player is sophomore Riley Reagan. A preseason All-ASUN Conference selection, Reagan burst onto the scene last year as a freshman for the Hatters, earning second-team all-conference and ASUN All-Freshman Team honors. She ended the regular season leading the ASUN with 35 assists. Her 53 total points in 2018 are a Stetson program record.
As good as Reagan was as a freshman, Leach sees better days ahead.
“Riley builds great connections with our players,” Leach said. “She’s only going to get better.”
As preseason practice has moved along Leach has been pleased with the quick transition of her freshmen and the positive steps taken by an experienced sophomore class.
“We’ve found a new mix of people who work well together,” Leach said. “The sophomore class has transitioned quickly and our freshmen are picking things up at a good pace. We never play anyone based on age. I’ve been really happy about connections that are being made.”
“Our captains have been doing a good job of communicating with the team and keeping our team goals in mind,” Leach said. “We don’t want to just worry about April. We’re starting to focus on our games at the beginning of the year. We want to start off the season really strong. That’s something we haven’t done in the past. They’ve bought into that and have communicated that to the team. They keep a positive energy at practice and help us focus on our short-term and long-term goals.”
As far as goals are concerned, the Hatters have some lofty ones.
“Our primary team goal is to win the ASUN championship,” Leach said. “We don’t want to just get to the tournament, we want to win it. We need to start off well and carry some momentum into the conference season rather than trying to stay above water like we have in the past. Chasing our goals will be really exciting for this group.”
The quest to reach those goals begins on Sunday.
About Stetson University Athletics: Stetson University’s Athletics Program has a vision of developing a culture of champions athletically, academically and within the community. This vision is accomplished through a mission of recruiting and developing student-athletes, coaches and staff, creating a culture of champions, within and outside of competition. The department operates with five core values: Championship Culture, Integrity, Excellence, Pride/Tradition and Leadership. To learn more about the Vision, Mission and Core Values for Stetson Athletics, visit GoHatters.com and click on Mission Statement under the Inside Athletics tab.