Last year was a breakout year for the University of Evansville Lady Aces basketball team.

The Aces, picked to finish last in the Missouri Valley Conference pre-season poll, shocked everyone with a fourth-place finish and a berth in the post-season Women’s Basketball Invitational, a first for the program.

All that will four freshman and three sophomores on the roster, back from last year’s 15-16 club.

No wonder UE coach Oties thinks his team can take the next step.

“We’re bringing in higher profile players,” Epps said. “We were pretty much the doormat of the league. We’re not that anymore, and  as long as I’m head coach, we’re never going to be.”

Epps was the featured speaker at last Tuesday’s meeting of the Mt. Carmel Kiwanis Club.

Back for UE is the unanimous  choice for MVC Freshman of the Year, 5-foot-11 sophomore Sara Dickey.

Dickey scored 545 points last year, the second-highest total in MVC history behind only ex-WNBA great Jackie Stiles.

Epps said that players like Dickey “don’t come around like this very often.”

She hails from Montezuma, Ind., 10 miles from Terre Haute “sitting in Indiana State University’s backyard and they knew nothing about her,” he said.  

Senior Mallory Ladd, from Evansville Memorial, averaged 12 points and 11 rebounds in an all-MVC season.

Epps ia also buoyed by the success of the recruting effort, highlighted by the signing of Peyton Langster, one of the top players on the No. 1-ranked team in the country in Santa Anna, Calif.

“She is the most highly-rated player we have ever signed,” Epps said.