Women's SBL Season Preview – Lakeside Lightning
CRAIG Mansfield taking over as coach and the return to the league of Alison Schwagmeyer should be enough to instantly put the Lakeside Lightning back in the playoff mix of the Women's SBL in 2016.
Coming off making the grand final in 2014 and losing a thriller to the Rockingham Flames after going neck and neck with them all season long, the Lightning came down with a thud in 2015.
Lakeside won just one game in all of 2015, losing 21 to be clear on the bottom of the standings but they have made some significant off-season movements to get back in the hunt for 2016.
The biggest signing is the new coach. Mansfield did a tremendous job for a long time at the Kalamunda Eastern Suns before stepping down following the 2014 season.
After recharging his batteries and watching the league closely in 2015, he has stepped back into the coaching hot seat again with the charter to make the Lightning a playoff threat again.
That is a big ask to come from a one-win season to likely requiring double-figure victories to snatch a place in the top eight, but his history suggests he is more than capable.
He does need some players, though, and the biggest signing for the Lightning is the return to the S of Schwagmeyer. Back in 2014 under Mansfield with the Eastern Suns, she was outstanding averaging 19.1 points, 7.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.4 steals a game.
If she can produce similar numbers this season for Lakeside, then they will be instantly improved on 2015.
She won't be the only import with the Lightning either and Devanny King arrives after a strong career at Georgetown College.
Ashleigh Grant was one player to step up for the Lightning in 2015 earning the Most Improved Award averaging 16.9 points and 8.9 rebounds.
Again if she can replicate, or build on it, on that further with the additions of Schwagmeyer and King, then Lakeside are looking vastly improved.
Amy Atwell was one young player the Lightning were looking to give opportunities to in 2016 as well, but she has ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament ahead of the season requiring a full knee reconstruction.
During the SBL Blitz at Warwick Stadium, the Lightning failed to record a victory losing to the Rockingham Flames, Perth Redbacks, East Perth Eagles and the Country team.
The Lightning begin the season back at Warwick Stadium on Friday March 18 against the Stirling Senators with their first home fixture coming on Friday April 1 against the Perry Lakes Hawks.
Courtney Byrnes, Courtney Beavis, Paige Davids, Tia Ucich, Olivia Waight, Alecia Knowles, Alex Bell, Tiahrn Flynn, Alison Schwagmeyer (restricted), Amy Atwell, Devanny King (restricted), Ashleigh Grant, Pip Lambert, Anna Hitomi
Coach – Craig Mansfield
Championship Winning Coach - VLAD ALAVA
PREDICTION – 8th
I'm banking on the coaching skills of Craig Mansfield and the ability of one untried import in the League to be a success for Lakeside to clinch finals. The other import Schwagmeyer is a proven player in her last stint with the Suns and is a tough and relentless competitor to go along with talent.
SBL Slam Radio Host - Matt Cecins
PREDICTION – 9th
Craig Mansfield will take over the wooden spooners and will make a positive impression at the club. Ali Schwagmeyer will be one of the best players in the competition, and last year's WSBL Most Improved Player, Ashleigh Grant will benefit by having more talented players surrounding her this season. Courtney Byrnes is a fantastic leader and I expect the Lightning to upset some teams in 2016.
PREDICTION – 8th
Should be the big improvers of 2016 under new coach Craig Mansfield. Ali Schwagmeyer is back after being an All-Star in 2014 and last year's Most Improved Player Ash Grant should go to the next level again. Unfortunately, Amy Atwell ruptured her ACL before season. Should still be in the playoff mix.
Article by Chris Pike