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Lady Cougars race out to 5-1 record to start season

The MVNU women’s basketball program is looking to start new traditions this year under first-year coach Amanda Learned.

The Lady Cougars are 5-1 on the season. So far, the focus for the Lady Cougars has been defense.

“As far as our keys to success, a big one is definitely defense,” Learned said. “This is something I stress to the girls over and over again. Because we’re in a very competitive conference, we absolutely have to play good defense.”

A second key will be consistency, she said.

“If we want to be successful, we have to be consistent,” Learned said.

The Lady Cougars graduated three seniors from last year, but are returning their leading scorer and rebounder in junior center Megan Beidelman, who averaged 13.7 points and 7.6 rebounds per game last year.

Beidelman, who Learned described as the “core of our team,” will be a key player for the Lady Cougars in the middle again this year.

Seniors Stephanie Imes at forward and Melanie Lombardi at guard are also expected to make an impact this year. Other top returners will be sophomore guards Natalie Carpenter and Sierra Basista.

So far on offense, the Lady Cougars have shared the scoring load, with three different players leading the way in the first four games of the season.

Basista poured in 17 points in the opener, while Carpenter recorded 24 points and 10 rebounds against Emmaus Bible College. Beidelman led the team to victories over Cincinnati Christian University and Lourdes University. Beidelman recorded four straight double doubles in the first week of play.

Still, the Lady Cougars will have their work cut out for them this season, especially when conference play begins. The Cougars have been part of the Crossroads League, one of the most competitive conferences in the nation, since 2010.

Four Crossroads League teams landed in the NAIA National Preseason Top 25 Poll with Indiana Wesleyan placing 5th, Marian University sitting at 9th, Huntington University coming in at 17th, and the University of Saint Francis at 20th in the nation.

Looking ahead, Learned said, the overall goal is about developing the vision she has for the program.

“My goal this season as a coach is to help the girls get one more step closer to reaching their potential,” she said. “I think there’s a lot of talent there that hasn’t necessarily been used the right way.”

Learned came to MVNU from Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Illinois, where she served as the junior varsity coach and an assistant varsity coach.

Coach Learned will be assisted by first year assistant coach and MVNU junior Zebulon Frank.

The Lady Cougars went 5-22 (2-16 in Crossroads League Play) last season.

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