Lady Aces basketball coach Tim Willis told his team they were already three weeks ahead of schedule. Never mind that Monday was just the first day of practice. “We got more in the first practice than we normally do. So, overall I was pretty pleased,” said Willis after the first workout of the season.

With three starters and a group of junior veterans back from a 26-6 team that advanced to the IHSA Class 2A sectional tournament for a second straight year, there are high expectations.

But, can they take the next step?

“We’ve got that potential,” Willis said. “We’ve got kids who are hungry, who have been there. They know now what it takes to get over that edge. But you have to stay away from injuries, and you’ve got to peak at the right time.”

Back, of course, is junior Tyra Buss, who is more than halfway home in her bid to rewrite the state record book for scoring. The inside game features the one-two tandem of junior Alex Rosignol and senior Marissa Hicks.

The Lady Aces not only welcomed a cadre of hopeful freshmen to camp, but also transfer Alyssa Lang, the Fairfield standout who has moved east to bolster the cause. For them, Monday was a day of baby steps.

“ We’ve got the freshman getting used to how we do things at the high school. And, with Alyssa coming over from Fairfield, we have to get her acclimated on how we do things,” Willis said.

The addition of Lang could prove invaluable for the Lady Aces. Willis reminded her in practice that her job is to score, which could take some of the heat off of Buss. And, at 5-foot-10, Lang will be capable of producing points inside or out.

“It’s got to be difficult for her,” said Willis of Lang’s efforts to quickly mesh with a team of experienced players. “But she is so athletic, and just a wonderful person.  She’s going to fit in very well for us, and be a good asset for us.”

Willis said the girls are adapting quickly to the continuing evolution of the offense. “The offense we are running is building on what we’ve run the last couple of years,” he said. “The girls who have been with us are already wanting to get further along than what we normally do from a teaching standpoint. Which is good.”

Lang won’t be the only player on the move in the offense. Willis plans to do the same thing with insiders Rosignol, Hicks, and Reagan Keepes.

“All of our bigs can play inside our outside. With the offense we’re putting in, it opens up the floor, and hopefully we’re creating mismatches with our speed against other team’s size. Because, we’re not the biggest team around,” Willis said.  

The LA’s need to have things ironed out by opening night, because the November 13th debut is a Big Eight Conference game at Washington.

“Hopefully we want to look good at the beginning of the year, and be playing well,” Willis said. “But, we’ve got to be growing as the year goes on. If we do that, yeah, we’ve got a shot.”

The home opener comes two nights after the Washington game, against Evansville Reitz. There are seven home games on the docket this year, but only two come after Christmas.

Perhaps the biggest two Big Eight games of the season will come within a five-day stretch in early December. The Aces play at Princeton on December 3rd, then host Jasper on December 8th.