By Anthony Bellino Staff Writer Standard Speaker
Penn State Hazleton forward Alexis Daly (Wyalusing, Pa.) is no stranger to change when it comes to the Lady Lions' program.
As she enters her senior year ,she'll be playing for her third coach in four years and has never played for the same coach in consecutive seasons.
All that Daly has done despite all the change in her first three yearshass been a three-time United States Collegiate Athletic Association All-American and was named the 2015 Penn State University Athletic Conference Player of the Year. She averaged a double-double with 16.7 points per game and 10.5 rebounds per game last season.
"Her skill set is tremendous. I've been coaching for many years at different levels and she's one of the most fundamentally sound players that I've had the honor to coach," Lady Lions' first-year coach Paul Appel said of Daly. "Her leadership ability has been off the charts. She was leading before I named her captain. Making her a captain was one of the easiest decisions I've ever made as a coach."
Appel takes over as head coach following the retirement of coach Cy Fulton. Appel previously coached at the now-closed Bishop O'Reilly and Wyoming Valley West high schools among other school.
He may be just beginning his career at PSU Hazleton, but Appel already sees things heading in the right direction.
"I think they're doing very well. Obviously, we have a new learning curve but so far it's been good," Appel said. "They're really smart players so they pick up everything really quickly. We're progressing really nicely for just being a few weeks in."
Daly agreed that both she and the entire team were adjusting nicely to yet another new coach.
"I'm used to a new coach every year. It's not going bad, though. He's a good coach and so far everything is good," Daly said. "Everybody's catching on to everything pretty quickly. The new girls have adjusted to us and our style and it seems to go well. I can see us going far and doing well."
Daly is the lone senior on the PSU roster and will be counted on to be a leader almost as much as she'll be counted on to produce in the box score. She's admittedly seen herself grow from a freshman who didn't say very much to a senior who is capable of leading a young roster.
"(My ) freshman year I stood back and let everything go," Daly said. "As the years have progressed, I kind of stepped up more not only on the court but working with the girls and working with them on different little things."
Behind Daly the local Lady Lions return junior Stephanie Guevara New Brunswick, Nj.). As a sophomore, Guevara averaged 9.2 points and 6.6 rebounds and two steals per contest. It'll be key for PSU to get production from someone other than Daly and Guevara seems poised to step up.
"That's the good thing about this team. I don't think we're going to rely on any one player," Appel said. "Stephanie is going to give us some leadership. She's a guard and she'll be doing some of the handling of the ball."
Expectations are high for this year's team when the open up their season this evening at Luzerne County Community College. They return Daly and Guevara are coming off a trip to the USCAA Women's Basketball Championships and an appearance in the PSUAC championship game, where they lost to PSU Beaver.
"Expectations are high,'' Appel said. "I think we'll be very competitive in our exhibition games and in our league games. I hope to make a deep run in the league like the team was able to do last year. We definitely think we're going to be one of the top teams out there."
After going 0-2 in the USCAA Championships last year, Daly's goal for her senior season is clear. The star forward isn't concerned with individual accolades or adding to her school-record 1,320 points. She's most concerned with getting back to the USCAA tournament and maybe even winning it all.
"Make it back to nationals, that's the only one I really have and to win that championship," Daly said. "The talent is definitely there, as long as we keep our heads on and push forward, we'll be fine."