ROCHELLE — Abby Lundquist has always been part of the youth movement.
Now, the senior stands largely alone as Rochelle’s old guard on the floor. A varsity player since she was a freshman, this is new territory for the do-it-all guard. On a team that will be filled with largely freshmen and sophomores as role players, it’s on her to carry the bulk of the scoring load this season.
“She welcomes anything that we give her in terms of challenges,” coach Tony Rowan said. “She understands that she's going to have to shoot the ball between 20 and 30 times a game.”
During Rochelle’s first game of the season, Lundquist poured in 34 points in a 49-31 win over Oregon that included 15 first-quarter points. She averaged 30 points per game in Rochelle’s first four games despite a 1-3 record.
The Northern Illinois Big 12 all-conference guard doesn’t come off the floor during games save for foul trouble or a seconds-long breather, simply because she can’t. Rochelle needs a leader. It’s a role the girl who was called “baby baller” by her teammates in years past can’t refuse.
“Now I'm the leader of the team,” Lundquist said. “It's really different. It also feels really good because I know a lot of younger girls are looking up to me. I just want to be a good role model for those girls."
Basketball is something that runs in the Lundquist family. Both of her parents are in Rochelle’s athletic hall of fame. And the family isn’t done. Her sister, Josie, is a freshman that suits up for the varsity team and has seen minutes so far this season. Meanwhile, Abby recently moved into third place on Rochelle’s all-time scoring list. She may reach as high as second before the season is over.
“I guess scoring-wise I don't really have any goals, but I'm just looking forward to winning. If that means scoring 40 points a game, then so be it. If that means I'll score 15 and use my teammates, then that's what I'm going to do."
Rowan has taken a few new philosophies this season working with an abnormally young varsity team. He has scaled back his offensive and defensive schemes. Each player has a specific, defined role. He’s even taken steps to keep the parents of young players in the loop about what he expects from them. He hopes their roles will be reinforced at home.
Among the Hubs supporting cast is freshman guard Zoey Tabor, who pushes the pace on both ends of the floor. Rowan anticipates Tabor will eventually emerge as the Hubs’ second option. Another is sophomore forward Afi Gati, who has already been named a captain and is one of the most coachable players Rowan has seen. Gati’s rebounding ability makes her one of Lundquist’s favorite teammates to play with.
Freshman Sylvia Hasz likely has the most upside among the bunch. The 5-foot-11 forward is one of the few true post players Rowan has had the chance to coach. She could be a game-changer inside as the season goes on. Yet another freshman, Lucy Bunger, has improved the most recently in Rowan’s eyes.
"The big thing for us is continuing to be aggressive,” Rowan said. “Aggressive players are usually on the positive side of being successful. Them understanding how physical a varsity game is, it's going to take some time. But I really do think in January they'll be thriving with how physical the game is."
Jeffrey Helfrich: 815-987-1389; firstname.lastname@example.org
Coach: Tony Rowan (6th season, 37-106)
Last season: 12-18 (2-6)
Returning starters: Abby Lundquist (5-7 Sr. G)
Other key players: Zoey Tabor (5-5 Fr, G), Afi Gati (5-6 So. F), Sylvia Hasz (5-11 Fr. F), Lucy Bunger (5-8 Fr. F)
Strengths: Volume scorer, youth, strength, athleticism, defense
Weaknesses: Height, second scoring option, rebounding, experience
Outlook: Rochelle will go as Abby Lundquist goes during the 2018-19 season. Relying on a volume shooter could make for a streaky team. For this team to win games down the stretch, additional contributions and defense from other players will be important. But, relying on that many freshmen may make for a tough rest of the season for the Hubs.