BELOIT - Even after graduating two of the best players in the Midwest Conference, Gloria Bradley hoped her Beloit College women's basketball team could pick up where they left off last season.
She still does, although the Buccaneers now have a bit more to overcome than the loss of Player of the Year Shelby Kline and all-MWC forward Candance Cunningham.
The biggest obstacle will be lack of depth. The Bucs will start the season at North Park Universityon Saturday with just nine players on the roster and two nursing injuries.
"We had a returnee who elected not to come back out and we had several kids who committed and then never showed up," Bradley said. "I've expressed to our players that with our numbers we need a special effort to do well. We can have a legitimate five who can be pretty special.
"My seniors have been playing together for years now and they're pretty tough. They show good leadership. But we need to get our new players to rotate into that mix nd give us depth and continuity."
Both Kline and Cunningham were terrific last season as the Bucs finished an 8-17 season (7-11 MWC) with a four-game win streak.
A two-year captain, Kline led the MWC in scoring with 18.1 points per game as well as three-pointers made with 83. She finished with 1,197 career points. Cunningham, a soccer player who joined the program as a junior, averaged a double-double with 14.2 points and 10.8 rebounds. Her 271 rebounds led the MWC.
"We had lots of production between those two, but I think we can replace them with a group effort," Bradley said.
The coach likes the potential of returnees Kelly Loudon, Dani Strejc and Lauren Glaser.
Loudon, a 5-9 junior from Clinton, started to come into her own in the second half of last season, averaging 9.9 points.
"Kelly missed her first season due to injury and we brought her along slowly, but she finished the season strong," Bradley said. "She's a versatile kid who can play multiple positions."
Strejc, a 5-8 senior, could be the team's top outside threat.
"Even with Shelby around, in practice Dani was our best shooter," Bradley said. "We have to get that confidence going in games."
Glaser, a 5-3 senior, will man the point.
"Lauren started out last season very well, but then lost some confidence," Bradley said. "She could be one of the best point guards in the conference. We've got to get her back on track."
The other returnees are 5-3 junior forward Tera Howard, 5-6 senior Kelly McLean and 5-10 sophomore Christy Melton.
There are three newcomers: guards Lexy Olson (5-3) and T'aira Boyance (5-6) and 5-9 post player Samarah Wilson.
A Parkview graduate, Olson is a rarity these days: a three-sport athlete. She also runs cross country and competes in track and field.
"This has been her first week practicing with us and she's working very hard," Bradley said. "She has the potential to be a scorer, too. She's only a freshman, but she can have some impact."
Boyance has the potential to create her own shots.
"Once that kid learns what we are doing, she's going to be explosive," Bradley said.
The Bucs will be vertically challenged so Wilson should help.
"What separates her is her basketball IQ," Bradley said. "She understands the game better than a lot of players we've had. As a student of the game, she watches and learns and is very coachable. She's hurt right now which will set her back some, but I think she will surprise people."
• UP NEXT: The Bucs open in a four-team tournament at North Park on Saturday at 1 p.m. Saturday's winners play at 2 p.m. while the losers play in a consolation game at noon. The other teams are Coe and Spaulding.
• 2019-20 SCHEDULE: Nov. 16 - at North Park, 1 p.m.; 17 - Spaulding/Coe, noon/2 p.m. 21 - MILLIKIN, 7 p.m.; 26 - ROCKFORD UNIVERSITY, 5:30 p.m.; 30 - at Manchester, TBD.
Dec. 4 - RIPON, 7:30 p.m.; 7 - at Lawrence, 3 p.m.;18 - NORTH CENTRAL (Minn.), 5 p.m.; 29 - at Elmhurst, 2 p.m.
Jan. 3 - at Cornell, 7:30 p.m.; 4 - at Monmouth, 3 p.m.; 8 - at Lake Forest, 7:30 p.m.; 11 - at Illinois College, 3 p.m.; 15 - ST. NORBERT, 7:30 p.m.; 18 - MONMOUTH, 3 p.m.; 21 - at Ripon, 7:30 p.m.; 25 - LAWRENCE, 3 p.m.; 31 - KNOX, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 1 - ILLINOIS COLLEGE, 3 p.m.; 5 - at Grinnell, 7:30 p.m.; 8 - LAKE FOREST, 3 p.m.; 12 - at St. Norbert, 7:30 p.m.; 15 - at Knox, 3 p.m.; 18 - GRINNELL, 7:30 p.m.; 22 - CORNELL, 3 p.m.