Youth Fuels Solid Start for Lafayette

By Matt Tritten |

Published 01/16 2014 11:33PM

Updated 01/16 2014 11:43PM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Entering her senior season at Lafayette, Ashley Hinkle was skeptical when thinking about how many varsity minutes would be played by the team's four freshmen this year.

"It was kind of hard for me to take it in at first," Hinkle said.

But the underclassmen came into high school with a chip on their shoulders.

"I think all of us freshmen knew that we had something to prove," freshman small forward Amber Kneale said.

They made a statement opening the season with the Savannah Tournament championship to put those concerns to bed.

"It was an eye opener just getting to know how they play with them and how good we are, and how we played against all the teams," Hinkle said.

The Irish are five games over .500 (9-4) midway through the season. Head coach Ryan Madison says so far they have has overcome the growing pains of a young team.

"We thought we had a chance to be pretty good, but playing that many young kids we still have chances to slip up along the way," Madison said. "We just have to keep getting better everyday, and that's what we're concentrating on is just everyday trying to improve as much as we can."

Scoring is up for this year's squad to 43.3 points per game with 62-percent of Lafayette's buckets coming from the freshman class. Forward Ashlyn Dotson's leading the way with 12 points per game.

"She's got great hands, great footwork," Dotson said. "Really all of those freshman -- if they'll keep spending the time on the court that they have -- they have a chance to be really, really good. With her being 6'2", the ceiling is literally really high for her."

Lafayette's mix of young talent with senior leadership has the Irish feeling confident, but they aren't overlooking the tough stretch of conference games still to come.

"To be honest, I didn't really know what to look for," Kneale said of her first venture into MEC play. "Smithville's a very good team, so is Benton, but we just have to go in like it's any other game and play the best we can."

"They're not under any illusions that we're just going to go out and roll teams like that," Madison said. "Because those teams are really, really good and we haven't beaten them in forever. But they also want to play the best teams."

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