Merriweather said one of her reserves making a move up the depth chart is sophomore guard Jalise Beck, who hails from Indianapolis and played in 25 games last season for the 25-9 Raiders.
Any bump in playing time will have been earned.
“She did not miss one workout all offseason — not weight-lifting, not conditioning, not basketball, not agility,” Merriweather said, adding that classmates Carly Clodfelter and Dasia Evans also have made big jumps from last year.
The four players in a highly regarded freshman class also are pushing the starters.
“They’re further along than we thought. They’re very, very skilled offensively,” Merriweather said.
But the Raiders, who won a share of the Horizon League regular-season title last season, were picked second in the preseason poll behind Green Bay because of all that talent and experience in the starting lineup.
Welch, a 5-9 senior guard, was named the preseason conference player of the year, while Smith, a 5-10 senior center, was chosen second-team all-league.
“Chelsea and Lexi are both very committed to having great senior years and be role models for the rest of the team,” Merriweather said.