A group lauded for its versatility, consistency and resounding success, the Fort Hays State women’s basketball program recognized one of its most memorable senior classes on Saturday at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
FHSU honored Belle Barbieri, Kacey Kennett, Taylor Rolfs, Lanie Page and Kyleigh Kasper, who comprise a class that entered Saturday’s game against Northeastern State with 99 wins to their credit over the last four years.
"I can’t think of probably a better class across the board," FHSU coach Tony Hobson said. "It’s a great class. They’re going to have won over 100 games. Anymore, it’s kind of judged on if you can win 20 games a year. These guys are going to average over 25 wins a year for four years, and that’s just unheard of. A lot of (the success) was because of those guys."
The senior class is set to become just the second class in program history to notch 100 wins at FHSU.
"It’s been just a blast," Kennett said. "Just the core group that we have here, it’s been nice to kind of build that from our freshman year and see where it goes. These girls are great. Our team, outside of basketball, the friendships that we’ve built are forever-lasting."
Kennett, a two-time All-MIAA pick, entered Saturday’s game with 1,196 points, 573 rebounds and 185 assists. The Olathe South product has played in 123 games with 111 starts.
"She’s got a high basketball IQ," Hobson said. "She’s got a great work ethic. You know, some people play hard in games and not quite as hard in practice, but she brings it every day.
"She just is a good role model for the younger kids. She prepares herself well. She’s really had to battle through an injury this year. She’s tough as they come. She’s a good rebounder and she does a little bit of everything."
Rolfs, who won three state championships in high school at Central Plains, had recorded 879 points, 370 rebounds and 202 assists for the Tigers entering Saturday. She played in her 120th game and made her 54th start in the NSU game.
"Taylor’s had some huge games for us over the years," Hobson said. "She was the first one in that class to commit, pretty early on in the spring, and then the others kind of fell in line. It was big to get a player like that so close to home. She was a highly-recruited player out of high school.
"Taylor’s just a great teammate. She’s been a good leader for us. She’s really unselfish, does a lot of things for us — similar to Kacey."
Barbieri, an Abilene product, has improved each year in the program. She started all 34 games last year in the Tigers’ MIAA championship season, earning All-MIAA honorable mention recognition. The forward had recorded 801 career points and 703 rebounds entering Saturday’s game.
"Belle wasn’t quite as heralded as the other two (Rolfs and Kennett) coming out of high school, but her improvement has been remarkable," Hobson said. "She didn’t play a lot as a freshman, but started getting a taste as a sophomore and she just kept getting better and better.
"She went from a 40 percent free-throw shooter as a sophomore to 68 as a junior. This year she’s in the mid- to high-60s again. She worked really hard to improve that. She’s just gotten so much better. Really important to our team, not only this year, but last year, to have her come along. Just remarkable the progress she’s made from the time she stepped on the floor as a freshman to now. She’s turned into a great player for us."
Page joined the program as a sophomore after transferring from Kansas State and made an immediate impact. The Wamego product was honorable-mention All-MIAA in her first year at FHSU and earned third-team all-conference honors last year as a junior. This year, her senior season ended after just 10 games when she suffered a torn ACL.
Hobson said the Tigers are still holding out hope Page can receive a medical redshirt and return next season. He said she fit seamlessly into the program upon her arrival.
"When kids come in when they transfer, if they’re high-character people to begin with and team players and unselfish and just want to win, they’re going to fit in — because that’s how the players that are already here and established are," Hobson said. "She was just like them. She’s an unselfish kid that I hated to see go down with an injury because she was having another really good year for us.
"She was such a great addition because she’s versatile, she can handle the ball, she’s 6-3 on the wing, good defender, good passer. Just a little bit of everything."
Kasper, a Russell native, has a year of eligibility left in basketball but is set to graduate in May and will be honored with the senior class on Saturday.
"She’s already been accepted into a medical school at Creighton," Hobson said. "We’re going to send her out as a senior. She was in that class (with the other seniors); she redshirted a year. She’s played a valuable role. She’s been a super person. She shows up every day and does every thing everybody else does, she just doesn’t get to play very much. She’s had a great attitude and has been a good kid to have on our team."