Few knew what to expect when the season began for the John Carroll women’s basketball team in November.
Senior leaders Missy Spahar and Allie Lustig were back to lead the Blue Streaks, but change was in the air.
A new head coach (Kelly Morrone), injuries and departures sowed uncertainty.
Morrone’s fellow coaches in the Ohio Athletic Conference did not appear to have much confidence in her or her team’s ability to handle the transition.
The OAC Preseason Coaches Poll placed JCU at No. 5 in the conference, behind Baldwin Wallace University, Ohio Northern University, Capital University and the University of Mount Union.
But then something interesting happened: the Blue Streaks started winning, and by large margins.
Morrone’s team took down its first three opponents of the season by an average of 21 points.
JCU’s first test came in the form of Mount Union, who had won seven consecutive meetings dating back to 2010.
The Blue Streaks passed the test with flying colors. Not only did the Blue and Gold emerge victorious, they won by the second largest margin in the history of the series, 82-64.
The victories kept coming. The Blue and Gold scored wins over ONU and Capital, teams JCU has traditionally struggled with.
The Blue and Gold’s hot start propelled them into D3Hoops.com’s Top 25 poll.
Playing with a new confidence, the Blue Streaks were taking the court with a new attitude. Morrone’s troops wanted not only to beat opponents, but dominate them.
The Blue Streaks ran into a wall just over a week ago on Jan. 15 at BW in a 97-85 loss, but the Yellow Jackets had to hit 12 3-pointers and shoot 48.6 percent overall from the field to beat JCU.
The way the Blue and Gold responded in their next game quelled all fears of a sudden losing skid.
In a road contest against Marietta, the Blue Streaks blew the Pioneers out of the water, 88-65, thanks to an impressive 23-0 run in the second half.
The best part about this team is that, just halfway through the season, the Blue Streaks have not yet reached their full potential.
“Our team has been improving so much throughout the year,” Spahar said. “We are only going to get better because the stakes keep getting better.”
The season is still young and anything can happen. But there are three reasons why JCU faithful should start paying closer attention to this team:
1. Kelly Morrone – An 11-year coaching veteran and a University of South Carolina graduate, Morrone has plenty of experience.
2. Missy Spahar – JCU’s top playmaker is the best forward in the OAC, if not in all of Division III.
3. A strong supporting cast – JCU has several players who can put up double digits every night, plus many solid role players.
Stay tuned, JCU fans, this is going to be a fun ride.