Janay Sanders

Janay Sanders (24) was a sparkplug off the bench for the Mountaineers last season, and the redshirt junior is expected to take the next step this season with more time on the court.

BOONE — When the 2020-21 Appalachian State women’s basketball season ended on March 7, it also signaled the end of two highly decorated Mountaineers’ college careers.

In Pre Stanley and Lainey Gosnell’s departure, the team lost more than 2,700 career points, 242 games played and 27 of the team’s 64 points per game. With college athletes having a limited number of years to play, turnover is expected, but any team would be facing a big transition when losing players like Stanley and Gosnell.

Head coach Angel Elderkin, heading into her eighth season at the helm of the Mountaineers, said her and her coaching staff were under no illusions that a transition was coming. In total, the Mountaineers only bring back two starters in Michaela Porter and Brooke Bigott, while also bringing in eight new players.

“We felt we had the biggest hole in our postgame, so we knew we had to bring in a post with experience,” Elderkin said. “We started with (Breanna Locke) from Emmanuel College, she played with (Gosnell), she’s that type of player — really smart and can really stroke the ball.”

Another transfer addition comes in the form of Alexia Allesch, a senior from Seton Hall, who Elderkin noted was a center with an outside shot — a combination the program had not been able to find.

“We were really fortunate to get those two young ladies,” Elderkin said. “Our other two transfers, we had kind of recruited the first time around — Taylor Lewis and Summer Schloss. So we had a little bit of a relationship with them and they weren’t playing at their respective institutions. I think (Allesch and Locke) are really going to be impactful for us.”

While more than half of the team are new to Boone, they come into a team that took ownership of building the chemistry early, Elderkin said. Captains Porter and Emma Newton were part of a leadership council that has spent the offseason working with the team to get to know each other on and off the court.

A member of the council is redshirt junior Janay Sanders, who had an increased role as the season went on and Elderkin pointed to a big part of the gameplan moving forward. Sanders said that building the team into a total unit has been going smoothly.

“It’s all of us together, fighting for this one goal and that’s to bring home a championship to Boone,” Sanders said. Sanders added that a big goal for the team is to bring the joy they feel while playing with to the people who watch them.

“Joy is a huge like factor of who we are,” senior guard Brooke Bigott said. “Having that joy and having consistency that we try to work on every day. We want the other teams to be intimidated, just by the fact that we’re so together on everything. We have a bond that no other team has and I think that’s what’s great about the people that come in — we always connect somehow, there’s never any like person who’s left out. I think that’s what’s really special about our team and what can take us from being okay to great during our games.”

The Mountaineers kick off the season at home on Nov. 9 against Lees-McRae with a nonconference schedule featuring trips to North Carolina and Duke.

Conference play begins on Dec. 30 with a road trip to South Alabama.

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