JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – While the regular season is almost a month away, Carson-Newman's first exhibition game is in 16 days. To set the stage for the reigning region champs, this is the first of a two-part series that goes in depth on the position groups with Kayla Marosites (Elizabethton, Tenn.).
A year ago, the Lady Eagles were consistently one of the best in the nation and the group expects to be again in 2018-19. After advancing to the Elite Eight and ranking in the top five for nine weeks, coach Mike Mincey's unit returns all four All-SAC picks and 86 percent of its point production.
That being said, the team graduated two key cogs in the frontcourt in Katie Stubblefield and Jecca Simerly. Stubblefield played in 118 games in her career and chipped in six points and four boards in 19 minutes per night as a senior. Simerly was in the starting lineup for the final 37 games of her career and saw time in 112 contests over four years. Averaging six points and 5.4 rebounds per game, she was the steady hand in the middle. Abby Tinsley is the other piece that graduated as she played in 72 games in her time in the Orange and Blue.
Marosites became the second C-N player since 2000 to average a double-double during the season as Shari Buford did so in 2009-10 earning second-team All-SAC honors in her first season at Mossy Creek. With 364 total rebounds, she ranked fourth in the country while hauling in five offensive rebounds per night to rank second.
Overall, the junior had 13 double-doubles, 22 double-digit scoring efforts and 20 games with at least 10 boards and set the program record for rebounds in a game with 21 against 25th-ranked North Georgia in Southeast Region title game.
"I'm hoping to average a bigger double-double, more points and more rebounds," Marosites said. "I want to be more consistent in my rebounding. Certain games I didn't rebound as well."
One of the two All-Americans from a year ago, Mika Wester (Newport, Tenn.), is back for her senior season. Entering the year, she is 13th on the school's all-time scoring list 1,176 and has a chance of finishing second needing 561 points this year to pass Leah Jackson's total of 1,737.
Wester collected SAC Tournament and Southeast Region Tournament MVPs on top of being a first-team All-SAC pick and a first-team all-region selection. She scored in double figures in 34 of the team's 35 games on the year with 12 efforts of at least 20 on the season.
"Her ability to score, her pull-up jumper is unstoppable," Marosites said. "She is a good teammate to have and she can pass too."
Kayla's sister, Kelci, produced nine double-digit scoring efforts off of the bench last year finishing with 6.8 points per game. With 48 three-pointers on the year, she was third on the roster in long distance connections.
Also returning for the Lady Eagles in the frontcourt are Addison Byrd (Nashville, Tenn.) and Chanler Geer (Knoxville, Tenn.). Byrd scored in double figures three times as a rookie while Geer's road back from injury netted her eight games of action.
The biggest difference up front comes from three newcomers that stand at least 6 feet 1 inch. Katie Bean (Knoxville, Tenn.), Caroline Harville (Morristown, Tenn.) and Sydney Pearce (Johnson City, Tenn.) add a different dynamic.
Bean was a shot-blocking machine in high school reaching triple digits as a junior and senior. Her mother, Pat Belitz, played at Carson-Newman in 1980-81 and 1981-82 scoring 18 points per game as a rookie and ranks 19th on the school's scoring list with 1,059.
Harville comes to town from Morristown West High School after a prolific career that resulted in several all-region selections. Pearce scored nearly 1,500 points in high school and her mother, Tammy Larkey, spent two years playing for Pat Summitt at Tennessee.
"Their size is going to help a lot defending," Marosites said. "Bean is one of the top shot blockers for her high school. Sydney is super big so her size is definitely going to help us a lot."
The final installment of the position previews is slated to be released on Thursday as senior guard Briana Smith (Nashville, Tenn.) sheds light on the C-N frontcourt.
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