Wright State Insider: Women’s hoops coach awash in game-ready players

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Wright State Insider: Women’s hoops coach awash in game-ready players

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December 15, 2015: Wright State guard Emily Vogelpohl (3) brings the ball up during the NCAA Women’s Basketball game between the Mount St. Joseph Lions and the Wright State Raiders at the Nutter Center in Fairborn, Ohio. TIM ZECHAR/CONTRIBUTED

Katrina Merriweather’s goal of developing quality depth this season is going even better than she hoped. While many teams are struggling to find capable subs, she’s been rotating 12 players on a regular basis.

But the Wright State women’s basketball coach has found it difficult to work in so many reserves while making sure everyone has enough time to get into a rhythm. Being able to go that deep into your bench may sound like an ideal situation, but 12 is an unwieldy number.

“It’s a good problem to have, but, at some point, we have to tighten it up a little bit,” she said.

The Raiders, who are 4-2, returned all five starters from last year in seniors Chelsea Welch and Lexi Smith and juniors Emily Vogelpohl, Mackenzie Taylor and Symone Simmons.

Sophomores Jalise Beck and Carly Clodfelter and redshirt freshman Dasia Evans have been contributing, along with true freshmen Nia Sumper, Tyler Frierson, Kiana Adderton and Breaunna Lloyd.

All the subs have played at least 24 minutes this year. Normally, the freshmen would have been eased into action, but all four showed up ready to compete right away.

“I’m really, really fortunate to have so many players I can put in a game. But what we really need to do is have someone separate themselves,” Merriweather said.

“It’s all like Kumbaya right now, and everybody gets an opportunity here and there. But honestly, we need more who are going to come off the bench and really step up and give us a punch on both ends. That’s what I’d like to see.”

Merriweather wants to pare the rotation to nine at least by the start of the Horizon League games Dec. 28. There likely will be fewer minutes for subs when the conference season arrives because the Raiders will lean more on their starters.

Welch made the all-tournament team at the Savannah Invitational last week as the Raiders beat Stetson and Richmond and dropped a tight game to Providence. The senior guard scored 59 total points, but she wasn’t the only standout.

Smith had two games with double-figure points and rebounds, Simmons had a 15-rebound outing, Vogelpohl had an 18-point night, and Taylor amassed 36 points.

“Lexi had a bone bruise and missed three weeks, but she just keeps getting better and better,” Merriweather said. “Emily really pushes the ball in transition and does some really good things on the offensive end. Mackenzie went 4-for-4 on 3-pointers one game. And Symone is only 5-8, but she’s a rebounding terror.”

The Raiders are a few possessions away from being 6-0. They lost by two at No. 19 Missouri and by five to Providence, which is 4-2.

Those games would have helped in building an NCAA tourney resume, but they still have enough quality opponents left to potentially accomplish that.

After home games at 7 p.m. Friday against Tennessee Tech and 2 p.m. Sunday against Chicago State, the Raiders have upcoming clashes with 6-0 Georgia and Ohio Valley Conference favorite Belmont on the road.

“Could we build a case, especially with our conference being a little tougher? Possibly,” Merriweather said. “Obviously, it would have helped a lot to beat Missouri and Providence, but we’re not giving up hope. Georgia and Belmont are really good. If we can manage to pull those out, we’ll see how it goes.”

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