It is never easy for a team to move on after losing a player as decorated as Ty Petty. Petty finished her career with the second-most assists in MTSU Lady Raider history, posting the two highest single-season totals in the process, and ranks in the top 15 in career scoring. While that kind of production is difficult to replace, it may be her leadership that will be even more of a challenge to supplant.
While Ty was the sole unquestioned leader a year ago, head coach Rick Insell will look to a group of young women to replace what the team lost when Petty graduated.
“Well, we’ve got a group of seniors that I’ve really grown close to: Abbey Sissom, Becca Reuter and Gabby Lyon,” stated Insell, “The leadership kind of lays with them.”
However, Petty’s presence is not completely gone, and Sissom, for one, will draw from her to replace that leadership on the court.
“It’s been great still having Ty out there with us as a graduate assistant and I think that’s helped me a lot,” Sissom said. “Ty has been my mentor. She has helped me throughout my four years here and I know that has helped me a lot.”
While the Lady Raiders have lost a legendary field general, they have gained a great deal of much-needed size.
Four newcomers have arrived, each measuring in at over six feet tall. They include freshman guard Anna Jones (6′ 1″), JUCO transfer junior forward LaSonja Edwards (6′ 1″), freshman center Kara Meadows (6′ 4″) and freshman center Jadona Davis (6′ 5″).
Coach Insell expects each freshman to become a key contributor right away, and Jones may even have a chance to start. Meadows, however, unfortunately dislocated her ankle in October and is expected to miss six to eight weeks of action.
The added size should help C-USA Preseason Player of the Year Alex Johnson to become an even greater force on the court.
Johnson is just shy of cracking into the Lady Raiders’ top 20 in career scoring after just two seasons. With added size inside, there should be more room for Johnson to work.
“I still feel that I can be dominant, but I still need help inside,” said Johnson. “It will help take some of the pressure off me, as well as some of the shooters coming in and putting down shots.”
The added size should also take pressure off of Johnson on defense and in rebounding, two areas in which Johnson has gotten herself into foul trouble.
If Johnson can stay out of foul trouble, the added minutes could put her within striking distance of Ebony Rowe’s career mark of 2,453 points for the Lady Raiders.
Johnson won’t be able to do all the scoring herself, though, and MTSU lost over 18 points per game in Petty’s graduation. Insell will look to Sissom to pick up those points as the second scoring option.
Sissom’s role has primarily been a defensive one over the last two seasons. As the top perimeter defender on the team, Sissom will need to bring some of the energy she has exerted on defense down to the other end of the court.
“I think that is definitely going to be a challenge for me,” Sissom said. “With Ty there and Alex’s scoring I knew that I didn’t have to do as much offensively as I did defensively, so I took pride in taking that extra energy and putting it on defense. This season it will be a challenge to keep my defense up and help out on the offense end a little bit more than I have been.”
The Lady Raiders will be tested early as they open the 2017–18 regular season against Vanderbilt in Nashville on Nov. 10. The will also face road challenges against Ole Miss, Georgia Tech, Louisville and USC before a home game against Kentucky in late December.
HOME GAMES IN NOVEMBER:
Nov. 2, 5:30 p.m.
Nov. 14, 6:30 p.m.
Nov. 19, 2 p.m.