New coach vows to ‘make history’

If Chanda Rigby is intimidated by the obstacles she faces in her first year as head coach of the Tabor women’s basketball team, you can’t tell it from talking to her.

Rigby got a late start, moving to Hillsboro in early August from home in Louisiana. Prior to that she had never been to middle America, much less Kansas.

She inherited a program that finished 2-26 overall and 1-15 in the KCAC.

Preparing last week for her team’s season opener against Newman University yesterday, at least five key players were still playing fall sports.

So, what is her outlook for the season?

“We’re going to make some history here,” she said. “Because of the fact they’re coachable and quick to adapt to what I ask them to do, I believe there’s a strong possibility it will happen this year.”

But her optimism has a realistic edge.

“I’ll feel differently and set new goals in the future, but right now it’s all about what we can do in the KCAC,” she said. “To me, everything else is a trial ground. I cannot be too concerned with the win-loss column right now.

“I’ve never been able to do that before, but I’m making my mind up that we’re totally training for the KCAC. Not that I want to lose a lot in the beginning, but if it were to happen, that’s what we’re measuring our success on.”

Since Oct. 16, when practice officially opened, Rigby has tried to prepare a team that she knows will change significantly in its makeup when the fall-sports athletes come on board.

“What I’m doing is trying to teach as much as I can to get us through and be successful,” Rigby said. “I’m not trying to put in things that I know we’re not going to be good in until we get some of our other players in.”

That includes a full-court press that will characterize her defensive approach that she describes as “in-your-face, man-to-man defense, not giving them room to breathe.”

Offensively, she wants to fastbreak whenever possible. When the fastbreak isn’t there, she wants to work the ball inside for the high-percentage shot.

To this point, the inside game has developed more quickly than the perimeter game because of the players currently practicing.

Heading that list is Susan Carter, a 6-0 junior from Ulysses who led the team in scoring last season. She is joined by Katherine Klepper, a 5-11 sophomore from Sabetha, and Meghan Coe, a 6-0 freshman from Miamisburg, Ohio.

“Susan Carter has been our most stable player so far, offensively and defensively,” Rigby said. “She rebounds a lot, too.”

The key to Carter’s season is whether she can stay out of foul trouble, Rigby said.

“We started from Day 1 talking about that,” she said. “Hopefully, even mentally, she’s preparing herself.”

Klepper has been slowed by various injuries, but her physical play inside should be a major contribution, Rigby said-if Klepper can stay healthy.

Coe, meanwhile, was recruited by Rigby literally hours after the new coach arrived on campus. The freshman averaged 10.5 points and 8.5 rebounds as a high school senior and was named all-league and all-district.

“She’s a freshman, but she’s adding so much presence in the lane,” Rigby said. “When she gets going, she’s hard to stop. She’s also so much of a verbal leader. There’s never a day when we walk in the gym that she’s not firing everybody up.”

Playing against each other each day in practice has only made the three players better, Rigby said.

“We’re going to hold our own at the post position (in the KCAC),” Rigby said. “There’s no question.”

Her biggest concern at this point is getting more scoring from her perimeter players to balance the team’s inside game.

Holly Ross, a 5-6 sophomore from Plainville, and Tiffany George, a 5-5 freshman from Rigby’s home territory of Hammond, La., have been the most consistent contributors so far. But Rigby expects a lot of help when her fall athletes hit the hardwoods.

Heading that list is a trio of former Hillsboro High School standouts who have been playing volleyball.

Angela Kroeker, a 5-7 freshman, averaged 16.7 points as a Trojan last season and was an all-league and all-state selection.

“She’s got a nice shot,” Rigby said. “She shoots about 30 minutes every day before volleyball practice. I go in and watch her sometimes, so I know she can hit the basket.”

Also joining the team is Carmen Hein, a 1999 grad, who transferred from Friends University, where she saw varsity action last year as a freshman.

“She’s very fast,” Rigby said. “I got to see her a little bit (this summer). I know she’s an athlete.”

The third Trojan connection may be Tesha Werth, a 1997 grad and former all-league and all-state performer. Her participation in basketball had not been finalized as of last week, but Rigby is hopeful.

“Her winning attitude is what we need in this program right now to gain immediate success,” Rigby said.

A fourth key fall athlete will be soccer player Melanie Kurtz, a 5-9 sophomore from Fort Collins, Colo., who had to forgo basketball last season because of a knee injury.

“From all accounts I hear, she’s a great ball player,” Rigby said.

Karen Shearer, a standout cross country runner for the Bluejays this fall, was to join the team this week.

“She’s supposed to be a shooter,” Rigby said of the 5-7 sophomore from Paradise.

Rigby said a third key component to the Jays’ success this season will be her returning seniors: Tami Jons (5-7), Bonesteel, S.D.; Jenae Rademacher (5-10), Thornton, Colo.; and Natalie Hess (5-7), now from Hillsboro.

Not only do they bring skills to the game, they also bring a healthy attitude to a program in transition.

Rigby said: “The seniors have made it easy for me to step in because they could have had a really nasty attitude: ‘We have been here all these years, we’ve had a lot of playing time, we liked our old coach, why are you trying to turn things around?’

“But they are, from all accounts I see, Christian young women who have a bigger picture rather than just thinking of themselves. That’s another reason I think we have potential to achieve immediate success.”

But even “immediate success” will take some time and patience, Rigby acknowledges.

“When I sit down at night and try to estimate all the things we need to improve on to win in the KCAC, the list is huge,” she said. “What (assistant coach) Sylvia Bribiesca and I have done is try to limit to two things per game what we want to see some drastic improvement on.

“Last week, it was defensive intensity. We just drilled it and drilled it in practice. What was encouraging to me was that it was a difference of daylight and dark between the first scrimmage and the last one,” Rigby said.

“They are coachable. It doesn’t go in one ear and out the other. If we pick up one or two things at a time, we might have drastically improved in so many areas by the time the (KCAC) tournament comes that we’ll be very competitive.”

The media and KCAC coaches recently picked the Jays to finish ninth and seventh, respectively.

The women’s team, which opened its season yesterday at Newman, will travel to Bartlesville (Okla.) Wesleyan on Friday for a 7 p.m. game.

More from article archives
In a class of his own
ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BY LINDSAY NUSZ From Crusader to Blue Dragon to Bluejay,...
Read More