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MINONK – Preventing the opposition from getting multiple attempts at the cup could hold the key to the campaign for Fieldcrest.

“It’s going be huge,” stated Knights’ coach Mitch Neally. “Rebounding is not a height thing, but a heart thing. We’re not that tall. We’ve talked a lot about rebounding. All five girls are going to have to rebound. We have to find our (player), yell out when the shot goes up and that one of the girls will get the rebound.”

The Knights welcome back a total of three starters off a 19-7 squad that lost 42-34 to regional host Flanagan-Cornell-Woodland. The top two scorers back in the fold are senior guards Leah White (10.4 points, 4.5 steals per game) and Madi Hock (9.3 ppg, 33 three-pointers)

“That’s kind of a question mark,” commented Neally of perimeter shooting. “One thing I challenged them in the off-season was shooting. We work on it every day in practice, 10 to 15 minutes, to get more shots.”

Another starter, senior guard, Lexi Jochums (8.9), who was a repeat pick on the Heart of Illinois Conference defensive team, is out for the season. She sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her left knee in late July, which did not prevent her from playing volleyball, but it will on the hardcourt.

“I feel so bad for her. She’s worked so hard,” said Neally, who enters his fourth season with the Knights (58-28 record). “Losing her hurts, but our philosophy is next girl up.”

The other starter that is back is senior forward Addie Goodrich, one of Fieldcrest’s three tallest players at 5-foot-8. They averaged 47.2 ppg a season ago.

According to Neally, the other two starters will come from a group of four juniors, all of whom are guards in Hannah Baker, Zada Baker (not related to each other), Alyx Carls and Nevada Park.

Fieldcrest surrendered 39.5 points per outing in 2017-18.

“We’ll mix in a little man, zone, some press. It’ll depend on the matchups.” Neally forecasted.

Eureka (28-5, 12-1) is the two-time reigning Heart of Illinois Conference and McLean County tournament champion. Fieldcrest tied for third at 9-4 with El Paso-Gridley and Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley, while Heyworth (21-6) finished one game in back of Eureka at 11-2.

“Each year, the HOIC is one of the best small school conferences in the state,” pointed out Neally. “The thing about the HOIC is every game, from top to bottom, is going to be a battle.”

In terms of where Fieldcrest ends up, Neally is non-committal.

“To say where we’re at, time will tell,” he said. “I’m still trying to get a feel for this team.”

With Blue Ridge having departed for the Little Okaw Valley Conference, there will be 12 HOIC games rather than 13.

Fieldcrest tips off Monday in the Flanagan-Cornell Stone Seed Invitational with a 5:30 p.m. matchup against Serena. The remainder of the schedule is as follows (all non-tournament varsity games will tip @ 7 p.m. unless indicated):

Tuesday: versus Ottawa Marquette in F-C Stone Seed Invite, 5:30 p.m.

Thursday: @ F-C in F-C Stone Seed Invite

Nov. 19: vs. Peoria Heights

Nov. 20: @ Roanoke-Benson, 7:30 p.m.

Nov. 26: @ Heyworth*

Nov. 29: vs. Tri-Valley*

Dec. 3: vs. Lexington*

Dec. 6: vs. F-C*

Dec. 10: @ GCMS*

Dec. 11: vs. Putnam County @ Granville

Dec. 13: vs. Ridgeview* @ Colfax

Dec. 17: @ DePue, 6 p.m. (varsity only)

Dec. 18: @ Henry, 6 p.m. (varsity only)

Dec. 27-29: Peru St. Bede Bruin Classic

Jan. 3: @ Le Roy*

Jan. 5: @ LaMoille/Ohio, 2:30 p.m.

Jan. 7: vs. Eureka*

Jan. 10: vs. EP-G*

Jan. 14: vs. Fisher*

Jan. 17: vs. Tremont*

Jan. 19 & 21-26: McLean Co. tourney

Jan. 28: vs. Midland

Jan. 31: @ Deer Creek-Mackinaw*

Feb. 4 & 6-7: Regional

*-HOIC game

Notes: DePue, L/O and PH are new to the schedule. The mercy rule will go into effect this season, which will have a continuous clock to begin the final period if one squad holds a lead of 30 points or larger. In early September, F-C approached the Bloomington-based Illinois High School Association (IHSA) and requested to dissolve the co-op with Woodland due to the latter not having any girls in the program. That was approved Oct. 11. A starter lost to graduation was forward Emma Lorton (7.4 ppg, 5.2 rebounds per outing). Neally’s assistants will be Mike Freeman and Katy Neally, the former Katy Seibring, who played at Normal Community and Illinois Wesleyan. They were married over the summer. There are four new coaches in the HOIC: Tad Myers (DCM), Nathan Ehrhardt (EP-G), John Fisher (Heyworth) and Chris Houser (Le Roy).

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