Jay'Nee Alston was Indy's lone sophomore starter in game three.
Jay'Nee Alston was Indy's lone sophomore starter in game three.

In 2015-16 the Independence Lady Pirates took on Pratt with 22 games under their belt. At that point in the year they were 15-7 overall and had played 12 conference match-ups.

Going into conference play last year they had played 10 games and were 9-1 overall. 

This 2016-17 season they do not have that luxury. ICC is just three games into their season sporting a 2-1 record, but they start conference play tomorrow, Saturday, November 12 as they take on Pratt.

The Jayhawk Conference realigned this season making the conference into one big division where they will crown one champion. Every team will play every other team in the conference twice, once at home, once on the road, and will play 26 games in the KJCCC.

There is no time to adjust. Teams have to be ready to play now. At 2-1 through three games this season it is tough to know whether the Lady Pirates are ready or not, but they know they will have to be for their conference opener at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

"I know we have a lot of work to do, but we're going to be ready by Saturday," sophomore guard Jay'Nee Alston said. "I know we are, I have faith in them."

ICC started off their season with a 75-69 loss to a Labette team they beat handily last year.

They went into their third game of the year starting four freshmen alongside Alston, and played six freshmen significant minutes in their final game before the start of conference play.

ICC is very young, and at the same time, their sophomores are having to learn how to take control not just with their leadership, but in their scoring as well, which can be a very different situation than what these women were relied upon for as freshmen.

"This year we've got leadership and we've got some good scoring, but we've got a lot of freshmen this year that have to really learn a lot of things," head coach Leslie Crane said prior to the season. "So it's probably going to be pretty rocky early and hopefully as we go along it will develop and we'll get stronger with that and by the end we'll be where we need to be."

In ICC's first few games they have already made progress. In the first game they didn't have that much trouble scoring, but they had trouble getting stops at the other end after they scored.

In the second game they weren't playing the defense they wanted in the first half but shored it up in the second, then in their third they weren't playing the defense they wanted in the first quarter but shored it up from then on out. They are cutting down on the rough edges that they have seen so far though they still have some work to do as all teams will.

"We need to be tough, more aggressive," Alston said. "And secondly our defense and rebounding, that's our key."

ICC has rebounded the heck out of the ball to start the year. They have outrebounded their opponents 158-84 through their first three games and that really is to be expected.

They have a ton of size this season as they run out five six-footers and three young women in Jordan Schoenberger, Alek Akuen and Dakota Corle who all exceed six feet.

Those three young women's play have been a big part of ICC's improvement over their last two games, which were two wins. How they play in ICC's first conference game on Saturday is going to go a long way in whether they start 1-0 in the Jayhawk, or 0-1.

"When you control the boards you control the tempo of the game," she said. "And when you're outrebounding people that's what's going to happen, you don't allow them to get the ball and run and I think we've been doing a good job of that.

"And I think our post players are feeling more and more comfortable, taking their time, finishing, we've got to do a lot more work with in and out type stuff because people are going to start doubling down on our post players, Jordan, Alek, Haj, all of those kids because they're scoring and they're doing a lot of good things."

ICC has made strides this season, and it's hard to really call it a season because it has just been three games, but in the short period of time on the court players are already looking more comfortable.

But when we'll see just how real that progress is is with the start of the conference schedule.

The Lady Pirates have to be ready for what is coming. The slew of freshmen on the roster have to be ready for what is coming. ICC looks to be playing better and they look to be ready to play, but we won't know if they are until the start at 1 p.m. tomorrow.

But ICC's confidence has taken a step forward since that season opening loss, and really they are looking forward to showing their real progress against a conference opponent.

"That (loss) got us ready for conference because they're going to play the speed that our conference is going to play, like Seward, Hutch, Coffeyville, they're going to be Labette's speed," Alston said. "So that game got us ready too because we know what we need to do."