The Fort Hays State women’s basketball team is ranked No. 7 in the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Division II preseason poll released Thursday. FHSU was also tabbed third in the D2Sida Media Poll.
The Tigers, who are coming of a 32-2 season, will play Kansas State in an exhibition at 6:30 p.m. Friday in Bramlage Coliseum.
Fort Hays returns 10 players off last year’s team that won MIAA regular-season and tournament championships last year.
“We do have a lot coming back. We have four seniors that started at least part of the year, and some good new kids,” FHSU coach Tony Hobson said at MIAA Media Day on Oct. 9. “We plan on trying to do the same things we’ve done as far as style of play and all those things. It’s just going to be mixing in three or four new kids.”
The Tigers lose MIAA player of the year Tatyana Legette and point guard Carly Heim, but bring back four players with starting experience last year — senior guards Kacey Kennett, Lanie Page and Taylor Rolfs and senior forward Belle Barbieri.
“I think everybody needs a certain level of talent to compete in this league, I think we have enough talent,” Hobson said. “And I think you need to stay healthy — that’s what kind of got us at the end of the year last year and regionals, and will be a factor this year as two of our top returners had postseason surgery. Just need to get them back to full speed. And then everybody just needs a couple breaks.
"I think if we have those three things happen, we’ll at least be able to compete for another title.”
Kennett, Page and Barbieri earned all-conference recognition last year. Kennett was a second-team pick while Page was a third-team selection and Barbieri earned honorable mention.
Fort Hays added two transfers — junior guard Jaden Hobbs from Oklahoma State and sophomore forward Cassidy Haufler from Cloud County Community College. The Tigers have two freshmen in guards Lauryn Reither (Oklahoma City) and Allison McFarren (Wichita).
Friday’s game will be the Tigers’ lone exhibition before they open the regular season next weekend in St. Joseph, Mo., facing Minnesota Duluth on Nov. 8 and Concordia-St. Paul on Nov. 9.
“We are going to need all of (that experience) because we start out with two of the top teams in the Northern Sun,” Hobson said. “Our schedule’s going to be tough this year. Hopefully we’ll be able to get it going early.”
The Tigers have a couple of strong ties to Kansas State. K-State head coach Jeff Mittie is the father of FHSU junior guard Madison Mittie, and Page started her career at Kansas State before transferring to FHSU.
Fort Hays nearly upset Kansas State last year, falling 48-46.
The Wildcats went 21-12 last year and made the NCAA Tournament. Peyton Williams and Rachel Ranke were preseason All Big-12 selections for the Wildcats.