With all the right pieces of the puzzle, including speed, height and solid defenders, the 2018-19 Cyclone women’s basketball team has their sights set on proving their might and winning championships.

Last year’s team broke a number of offensive records but didn’t quite have enough height or ball control. A couple of the scoring machines (Creighton Fed and Kristin McGee) have moved on, but a few key players are back. All-Region and All-Conference player Ashley Hunter (Homewood-Flossmoor) broke a school and national record last season. She had the most points in a single game (48) and broke the NJCAA record for most field goals in a game (21-for-29). She also became the second highest scorer for the Cyclones, tallying 670 points. Head Coach Delwyn Jones is happy to have this talented athlete back on the floor. “It’s good knowing you have a great player. She’s smart and mature enough to want to get better. She hustles and always plays hard,” he said.

Elizabeth Coffey (Peotone), an All-Conference player, brought height under the basket last year. She has a solid fade away shot and can battle for rebounds. She’s vital to this team but is at the tail end of her final season with the Cyclone volleyball team. Gabbie Brent (Oak Forest) runs the floor well and brings a toughness to the team. Lauren O’Leary (Sandburg) was injured last year but works hard and is fast on the floor. She is a smart shooter and tough for a 5-foot-6 guard. Diamond Dortch (Romeoville) was injured last year, but this All-Conference player who set a college assist record in the 2016-17 season will be a welcome return to the team.

A few strong transfers are going to make an impact this year as well. Hennessey Handy (Plainfield Central/Kilgore College) is a resilient point guard with good vision, shooting abilities from the outside and speed. She can get to the basket for points. Sisters Julia and Kate Ruzevich (Marist/Quincy University) are following in the footsteps of their older sister, Rachel, and brother, Joey, who both played for the Cyclones. They both can score from outside, have a low block and can run the floor well. At 6-foot-1, they can rebound and are solid defenders.

Newcomers include Sandburg alumnae Erin Greenfield and Nicole Poole, both of whom can shoot, rebound, defend and play smart ball. Destiny Thames (Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences) is a long, fast athlete who will be influential defensively. Jasmia Edmond (Rich East) has the ability to block shots with her length and move quickly, and Lexi Langellier (Lockport) can handle the ball well and has a solid three-point shot.

Overall, these Cyclones are better outside shooters, have deeper talent and are solid defenders to complement their high character and coachability. As long as this crew stays healthy, they have the ability to go far.

“I feel we’re the most skilled team in the region. I expect to win conference, and we have a good chance to win region,” said Jones, who enters his 19th year leading the Cyclones. “We’re faster, more athletic and longer than other teams. With our high basketball IQ, we can run effective plays, and defensively we’ll be better. We have all the ingredients to be dangerous. It’ll be an exciting season. I feel good about this year.”

The Cyclones’ season officially opens Nov. 2, and their home opener is Nov. 13, 5 p.m., against Kishwaukee College.