Dandenong Rangers raring to go

Tessa Lavey returns to the Rangers this season after representing Australia at the recent World Cup. 173518 Pictures: STEWART CHAMBERS

By Hayley Wildes

DANDENONG RANGERS WNBL SEASON PREVIEW

It’s that time of the year again! The WNBL is back and the Dandenong Rangers have put together a roster that should have all Rangers fans extremely excited for the season ahead.

After a 2017/18 season that never really clicked into gear and finished with a disappointing 7-14 record, the Rangers have built a team that appears well-placed to bounce back this season.

The Rangers tip-off their season on the road; facing the Fire in Townsville this Sunday, before returning to Dandenong Stadium for the home-opener against Sydney Uni on Friday October 19 from 6:30pm.

Dandenong has a roster boasting plenty of stars, including the likes of Tessa Lavey, Rachel Jarry, Bec Cole, Sara Blicavs, Kayla Pedersen (import) and the final two pieces added to the roster; Stephanie Reid and Betnijah Laney (import).

Tessa Lavey will enter the season off the back of a FIBA World Cup campaign in which she helped the Opals claim a silver medal in an outstanding result for Australian basketball. The speedy point guard will have a massive role to play with her sublime playmaking and defensive tenacity.

Another exciting point guard for Rangers fans to keep an eye on is Stephanie Reid. The Victorian has spent the past four years dominating American division 1 college basketball for the Buffalo Bulls. She leaves the Bulls as the all-time leader in assists and her new Dandenong teammates will revel in her ability to make the right play and deliver pin-point passes.

The additions of Rachel Jarry and Bec Cole will provide a huge boost for the Rangers. Jarry, a two-time Olympian and former Minnesota Lynx player in the WNBA, played her junior basketball with the Rangers and will bring leadership and tough play to the line-up.

Cole dominated SEABL in 2018 for the Melbourne Tigers, finishing second in the league for points per game (22.6) and third in assists (5), while also adding 4 rebounds. Her offensive firepower and do-it-all game will add another dimension to the Rangers.

Sara Blicavs is an accomplished player and whilst she was on the roster last season, a ruptured ACL in November saw her miss the majority of the season. Blicavs will likely miss the start of the season, but will return at some stage in what will be a massive boost for the Rangers.

When Blicavs is fully healthy, she can be one of the most dominant players in the league and a force to be reckoned with on both ends of the court.

Dandenong’s two American imports; Kayla Pedersen and Betnijah Laney will both play key roles. Pedersen returns to the Rangers after averaging 11.1 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game last season. Her ability to guard the best bigs in the competition is invaluable.

Laney returns to the WNBL after stints with Perth in 2015/16 and Bendigo last season. Earlier this year, she played for the Connecticut Sun in the WNBA, averaging 2.7 points and 1.7 rebounds in 9 minutes of game time.

She is a tremendous athlete and will bring aggression and size to the line-up.

Returning players Carley Mijovic and Tayla Roberts will be looking to build on strong 2017/18 campaigns and both players can score in the paint and bring down plenty of rebounds.

Coach Larissa Anderson possesses a squad that looks capable of challenging the upper echelon teams in the WNBL. Health will be crucial and with plenty of new pieces, integrating everyone into roles within the system may take some time, but if it all clicks, the Rangers will be a tough team to handle.

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