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Lineup shifting for Tiger women

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

Before Jan. 30, Fort Hays State University had never ran a lineup with junior center Kate Lehman, senior Katelyn Edwards, senior forward Tera Ingalsbe, freshman guard Nikola Kacperska and sophomore guard Beth Bohuslavsky.

That night, the quintet started the contest, played 7 minutes, 44 seconds together throughout the game and finished plus-9. FHSU won 72-57 against then-No. 3 Emporia State University en route to the program's first victory against a top-five NCAA Division II team.

Last Saturday, coach Tony Hobson started the same group against Washburn University. The fivesome played 7:49 together and was even with the Ichabods in a 69-62 victory.

On Wednesday, sophomore guard Taylor Chandler, normally a starter, returned after she missed four games with a knee injury. Hobson kept the same starting five for the third straight contest. The group opened the game on a 12-4 run and the Tigers eventually earned an 85-67 road victory.

Even with the lineup's success, Hobson didn't know if he would start it against every team. Now, it's uncertain whether the quintet will play again in the foreseeable future.

On Wednesday, Edwards went down with a knee injury late in the first half and could miss significant time.

"Nothing conclusive right now," Hobson said on his postgame radio show. "But it doesn't look good."

On Saturday, Fort Hays, ranked No. 25 in NCAA Division II at 16-4, 9-4 MIAA, will travel to Emporia State for a 3:30 p.m. tipoff at White Auditorium. The Hornets, now No. 7 nationally, came back from a 17-point deficit to defeat rival Washburn University on Wednesday in Topeka. The Hornets stand at 20-2, 11-2 MIAA.

"We can ill afford to lose her," Hobson said.

FHSU stands at 0-32 in the program's NCAA era against ranked teams on the road. This is just the third time Fort Hays has played a ranked team while also being ranked; the Tigers are 1-1 in those games. The Tigers have never played a top-20 team while also being ranked.

"It's fun when you are starting the game, but we have to work together, and it doesn't matter who is the five starters," Kacperska said. "We have to work together, and if someone isn't starting, it means that you have to work, too. I think it's more pressure on the five starters than the other ones, but all together, we have to work."

On Monday afternoon, Hobson sat in his office and said the new lineup helped Edwards more than any other Tiger. Usually, Edwards plays the 4, or power forward, and Lehman and Ingalsbe switch off at the 5, or center.

With Lehman and Ingalsbe both in the contest, Edwards can play the 3, or small forward. Edwards is able to play away from the basket at the 3 and often has a mismatch.

"You think having Kate Lehman and Tera in there that they would really dominate the boards," Hobson said. "But it's helped Kate Edwards because instead of being under the basket, she is out on the floor going to the boards, and she can pick and choose and get around her man so well, and then she can still get up with the big kids."

Edwards averages 12.4 points and 8.5 rebounds this season. She finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds against ESU, and eight points with 14 rebounds against Washburn.

"If she is just under the basket where it is a wrestling match sometimes she loses those," Hobson said. "She has just been tenacious on the glass the last couple games."

Against UNK, Edwards didn't score in 12 minutes, but had five rebounds. Edwards, a 1,000-point scorer, has started all 78 games in her Tiger career.

"She has got a smaller person trying to block her off, and then she gets a little run at them out there, and she has a good nose for the ball," Hobson said. "If you are at the free throw line and are willing to go after boards, you can almost get more of them than if you have inside position on one side of the other -- if you are a good athlete like she is."

Hobson would likely run the new lineup against a bigger ESU team, but probably wouldn't use it against a smaller, quicker squad, such as Pittsburg State University. Some teams, such as ESU and WU, have a bigger 4 person who Ingalsbe can guard. Pittsburg State usually plays two-time honorable mention All-American Lizzy Jeronimus at the 4 spot, who is several inches shorter than Ingalsbe.

"That's a pretty tough matchup for Tera," Hobson said. "It will just depend a lot on that."