ABILENE, Texas -- Hardin-Simmons’ women’s basketball team will have a new leader for the 2013-14 season and the Cowgirls return 11 players that have helped to make the transition a smooth one.
Melanie Chonko takes over the Cowgirls’ saddle after nine years as an assistant coach in the program.
“It’s been a lot of fun so far, just putting the team together and seeing how they are working together has been enjoyable for me,” said Chonko.
“I am excited to see us put it all together. In our two scrimmages we have done some things really well and some things not so well, so I am ready to see us put everything together. This is an exciting team that is athletic, has some speed and we will get out and pressure you and get up and down the court.”
An evident characteristic that Chonko has immediately brought to the program and team is a positive environment. The team has chosen POP20 as their team motto for the year, and it means power of positive for 20 wins.
The lofty expectations are attainable for a team that has plenty of experience returning and a talented freshman class as well.
The Cowgirls will rely heavily on a strong inside game that features seven veteran players.
Jamie Heflin is a senior from Strawn that transferred in last year and started nine games before tearing her anterior cruciate ligament. She averaged 4.6 points and 2.9 rebounds per contest.
Jamie brings a lot of speed and mobility to the position and she can score around the rim.
Taylor Klement and Jaclyn von der Heide bring size to the post. Klement missed last year with a foot injury but was solid as a freshman. Von der Heide is the leading returning scorer and rebounder after averaging 7.9 points and 4.4 rebounds per game.
“Both of them bring size and strength to the position and can push some people around down there,” said Chonko.
Alicia Finn and Sara Vargas are a pair of sophomore that showed flashes of potential as freshmen.
“Alicia is very smart and a good passer from the high post. Sara is taller and quicker and is very good defensively and can block some shots so she brings that element.”
Junior Jessi Perez is a hard worker that communicates well and she is a great rebounder.
Sophomore Shelby Hanna is a versatile player that can play inside or out and can guard different types of players. She averaged 3.1 points and 2.8 rebounds as a freshman. Junior Rachel Holik, who started 16 games a year ago, tore her ACL last week.
“We like the versatility we have with our post players and we think they are going to be a big asset for us,” said Chonko.
As experienced as the frontcourt is the backcourt may be as inexperienced.
Leading the way at point guard will be junior Joanna Daniel. She is a natural leader and averaged 7.2 points per game last year and was one of only five players on the team last year to have more assists than turnovers.
Lauren Thomas, a sophomore who was hurt most of last season, will also be in the rotation at point guard. She brings athleticism and quickness.
Senior Becca Chagnon give the Cowgirls a great defender that is athletic at the three position.
“She plays hard, has speed and is a great offensive rebounder,” said Chonko. “We expect to use her athleticism in our favor, especially on the defensive end.”
The rest of the perimeter will be six freshmen.
Kourtney Holyfield, a 5-7 guard from Mabank, will begin the season starting at the shooting guard position.
“She is a great scorer, she can shoot the 3-pointer and get to the basket as well. She is fast and can push the ball,” said Chonko.
Kayla Brown is a 5-7 guard from Grand Prairie that can get the ball to the rim.
“Kayla is athletic and she really gets to the rim. She has great quickness and is a very good perimeter defender,” said Chonko.
Lexi O’Hair, a freshman from Amarillo, will provide some perimeter scoring and is also a good rebounder. Emily Cullers from Comanche and Kelsie Candey from Saginaw will also add depth on the perimeter.
Destiny Martinez will add depth at the point guard position behind the two returners. She is a freshman from Round Rock.
“We are excited to get started,” said Chonko. “We have a team that will be fun to watch, they are versatile and can do a lot of things well. We feel we have pieces to matchup against any type of team we play. We are going to pressure people and get after them on defense.”