The Bobcat women basketball team ended their season on the afternoon of February 23 in Dubuque, Iowa, which was the conclusion of their final regular season game. Peru State fell 69-57 to Clarke which ended the 2018-19 campaign.
The 'Cats failed to make the postseason conference tournament for the third time in the last four years. The team finished the season with a 4-24 record overall including going 3-21 in the Heart of America Athletic Conference (Heart) in head coach Joan Albury's first full season after being named the interim last winter.
After finishing last place out of 14 teams last season, Peru State saw minor improvements in the conference standings this season ending up 12th out of 13 teams. The team began the season competing in four non-conference games, winning one of the four. They earned their first win of the season, an 87-70 victory, in the home opener versus York in early November.
After non-conference play, they continued on into the Heart conference schedule where they would go on to lose their first six before gaining their first conference win. A 67-65 win over the visiting Culver-Stockton (Mo.) Wildcats was a good win as Culver-Stockton later made it to the conference postseason tournament finals. This 1-6 stretch led the team into the holiday break with optimism as they were very competitive in a majority of those seven Heart contests.
Entering the spring semester, the Bobcats lost their first 13 games before picking up their next win. This 69-59 win came at home on Senior Day against Mount Mercy on February 16. The team did end up on a good note winning two of their final four games. Their final victory came in dramatic fashion as they upset a good Benedictine (Kan.) team on the road 67-61.
The team, even in most of the losses, showed increments of progress in comparison to last season. The team was primarily led by freshman guard Alyssa Marsh-Contreras (Bellevue) who topped the team statistically with 16.91 points per game, 2.82 assists per game, and 1.96 steals per game. For her efforts this season, Marsh-Contreras was named the conference's Freshman of the Year and was named to the Heart's All-Conference Second Team.
Also leading the team in statistical categories were Claire Cudney (Marysville, Kan.) who had 203 rebounds in her sophomore season average 8.83 per game. The team's block leader was junior forward Giovanna Silva (Brazilia, Brazil) who had 15 blocks in 28 games played.
Statistically, the team finished ranked in three NAIA Top 50 team rankings: 37th in offensive rebounds per game (13.321), 49th in total defensive rebounds (38.893), and 50th in total rebounds per game (39.036).
Marsh-Contreras, Cudney, and Silva all were among the NAIA leaders in several categories. Marsh-Contreras was 18th in points per game, 33rd in three-point field goals made per game (2.136), and 41st in field goal percentage (0.420). Cudney was 31st in defensive rebounds per game (5.870), 32nd in total rebounds per game, and 37th in offensive rebounds per game (2.957). Silva finished 34th in offensive rebounds per game (3.071), 35th in total rebounds per game (8.571), 37th in defensive rebounds per game (5.500), and 44th in total rebounds (240).
In her first season, Marsh-Contreras is in three Top 20 single-season categories – eighth in scoring average (16.9), 18th in free throw percentage – minimum two attempts per game (74.6%), and 19th in three-point field goals made (47).
In career statistics, Brooke Maeda (Honolulu) is now among the Top 20 leaders in a couple of categories – ninth in three-point field goals attempted (303), 12th in assists (231), and 12th in three-point field goals made (91).
Five of the Bobcat players did earn Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athlete recognition at the end of the season. They included seniors Elizabeth Hall (Graceville, Fla.), Lauren Beath (Bakersfield, Calif.), and Swaranga Fernando (Colombo, Sri Lanka), along with juniors Maeda and Cudney.
The program lost five seniors due to graduation or finishing their eligibility: Beath, Fernando, Hall, Leslie Kirkland (Bakersfield, Calif.), and Jordan Salas (Winfield, Kan.).
With having several key players returning, the team has optimism heading into next season. Over 85% of the total scoring is returning for the 2019-20 season as is over 83% of the team's rebounding leaders.
Coach Albury has already began searching for the missing pieces to bring in for next year's roster. In addition, for the first time in more than 20 years, Peru State will have a junior varsity program to enhance its overall program.