A trip to the National Tournament Game has become a norm for the 18-12 Crusaders, a record which includes a 3-0 run through the Tournament halted by none other than the Kentucky Christian Lady Knights.
The Knights have dealt Maranatha its second loss in as many seasons on the same stage, but the outlook remains positive with no graduating seniors from this year’s squad.
KCU will lose three of their top players, making it favorable for Maranatha to be seeded high next year.
For the first time since joining the Northern Athletics Conference, the Lady Crusaders have taken their biggest step to date.
Wins are hard to come by in the NAC and Coach Morrison’s group notched seven, not including a win over Aurora in the NAC Tournament. The Crusaders finished 7-11 in the NAC, with their previous high of three wins coming in the 2009-10 campaign.
Transfer center Laci Peterson (Chillicothe, Ill.) was a major factor for the increase in wins after averaging 4.1 blocks per game. That total ranked 5th in all the NCAAIII out of 300 ranked. She was selected to the Second Team All-Northern Athletics Conference squad, the second player after Colleen Rader (Goff), to earn the award.
Peterson’s contributions gave forward Torey DeLozier (Watertown, Wis.) more freedom to move around in the post with a NAC-leading 54.9 FG%.
DeLozier and Peterson combined as the top two scorers and rebounders on the team. Peterson averaged 12.4 points and 8.4 rebounds and DeLozier had 12.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game.
Another key component was junior guard Autumn Peotter (Waupaca, Wis.) , who did just about anything for the Crusaders in a 10.5 points, 5.6 rebound, 3.9 assist and 3.1 steals per game campaign.
As a team in the NAC, Maranatha was second in defensive rebounds per game and first in blocks against NAC opponents alone.
In the NCCAAII, Maranatha went 10-0 until the championship match against KCU, defeating teams by an average margin of 30.3 points per game.
The depth this year behind players like DeLozier, Peterson and Peotter makes for a potent group. Add in the fortunate opportunity for the Crusaders to supplement the team with more young talent and we may have the ingredients for a National Championship in the mix.