New coach faces challenge in KCAC

Mark Schnabel
The Kansan
Bethel senior Josie Calzonetti is one of seven returning players for the Threshers this season.

First year Bethel College women’s basketball coach Derrick Pringle Jr., will be facing an uphill battle to return to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics tournament, if the Kansas Collegiate Athletics Conference pre-season polls are to be believed.

The KCAC held its annual media day Tuesday in a virtual format on the conference’s Facebook page.

In the coaches’ poll, Bethel was picked to finish seventh out of 13, while the Threshers were picked to finish fifth in the media poll.

Tabor was picked by the conference coaches to win the conference over defending champion Sterling 137-133. Each team received six first-place votes. Kansas Wesleyan was picked third with 123 points and a first-place vote. McPherson was fourth.

In the media poll, Sterling edged Tabor 244-239 with the Warriors getting 13 first-place votes to six for the Bluejays. Kansas Wesleyan was third with 210 points and a first-place vote. McPherson was fourth at 193.

Bethel claimed 73 points from the coaches and 171 points from the media.

More:Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference Women’s Basketball Pre-Season Polls

Pringle Jr. came to Bethel after 14 years leading Simpson University in Redding, Calif., located in the northern part of the state. He was 134-267 at Simpson, claiming 11 top-four finishes in the California Pacific Conference. His best season was 2018-19, going 19-12.

He also served as an assistant athletic director at Simpson.

Before coming to Simpson, he coached the men’s team for two years at Puget Sound Christian College, his alma mater.

He inherits a team that finished 16-10, 16-6 in KCAC play. Bethel finished second in the conference to qualify for its first-ever NAIA national tournament berth, falling to Vanguard University 67-50.

“I’m excited to be at Bethel,” Pringle Jr. said. “For us and our program, we’re looking forward to changing the culture. Drew (Johnson) did a phenomenal job on getting this program to where it’s at. … I want to put my stamp on the program and have my style of play. We want to play fast. We want to be competitive and have fun on the basketball court.”

More:Bethel College women's basketball 2021-22

Bethel loses all-time leading rebounder and shot blocker, as well as one of the all-time leading scorers and NAIA All-American Abby Schmidt, but returns seven letterswinner, including three starters.

Returning starters include Kendall Michalski (5-6, sr., G, 13.0 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.2 apg), Josie Calzonetti (5-10, sr., G, 7.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 2.9 apg) and Jasmina Jones (5-10, sr., G, 6.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.2 apg).

Other key returnees include Alex Bearup (5-10, sr., G, 9.0 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.1 apg), Zayda Perez (5-6, jr., G, 5.3 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.0 apg), Kayla Newman (5-10, sr., F, 2.5 ppg, 1.6 rpg) and Jaycee Freshour (6-0, so., F, 2.4 ppg, 1.1 rpg).

Michalski and Bearup were both All-KCAC honorable mentions last season. Michalski holds several 3-point shooting records for the Threshers.

“Kendall Michalski, everybody knows who she is, is a sharp shooter, a great team player, a high basketball IQ and I’ve been very impressed so far with her leadership off the court and her development,” Pringle Jr. said. “She’s a great all-around player. Alex Bearup is an all-around player, played a one through four for us. A great basketball IQ as well. A good shooter and a scorer. J.J. Jones, I’m excited for her development in our system. She can do a lot of good things on the basketball court for us. I’m exited to see what she does.

“Josie Calzonetti I think will blossom in our system. She’s a clutch player. An all-around player as well. Jaycee Freshour was a freshman last year, now a sophomore. She’s a stretch four. This summer and this fall, she’s been working a lot on her game. Zayda Perez is a junior this year. She’s probably one of the most competitive kids in the program. She plays hard on both ends of the court. She plays with a lot of energy. Kayla Newman is gritty. She does a lot of the dirty work for us. She takes a lot of charges, which I like. I look forward to see how well she does in our system.”

Some players looking to move up to full time varsity status include Sydney Tenant (5-11, sr., F), Melinda Vargas (5-6, jr., G), Lena Driscoll (5-10, jr., F) and Aaliyah Hunt (5-4, so., G).

Pringle Jr. has six newcomers, but said only two are healthy. Top newcomers include Troi Lucas (5-10, jr., G-F), Josie Stupey (5-7, fr., G).

In a COVID-19 shortened season, Bethel played just four non-conference games all season. This year, the Threshers play three in October alone and six in total, along with a pair of NCAA Division II exhibitions against Emporia State and Fort Hays State.

Bethel opens the season Oct. 27 at home against Central Christian College.