The Ottawa University women’s basketball team opens the season this weekend in the HAAC/KCAC Classic at Leavenworth on the campus of the University of Saint Mary.

Ottawa will play two NAIA Division I foes in Benedictine and Baker on Friday and Saturday.

The Lady Braves return eight letterwinners from last year’s 9-19 squad. Three of the returners are starters, including Mariah Grizzle, an honorable mention All-KCAC selection and KCAC freshman team member. Ottawa will mix four newcomers with the returners.

“I’m eager to see how this group comes along,” Ottawa coach Bruce Tate said. “Preseason workouts and first couple weeks of practice have been decent, so once we began to play some outside competition to get some things exposed, we’ll figure out where we can continue to grow and improve.”

Grizzle averaged 9.6 points and 7.0 rebounds last year. She was selected to the preseason All-KCAC team.

Kelsey Hendricks is a three-year starter at point guard. Senior guard Katlyn Hughes (8.4 points) is a two-year starter. Avery Lewman (9.1 points) played in seven games before an injury ended her season. Other returners include Madi McAvoy (4.0 points), Liz Vaughn (6.1 points), Jennifer Anthony (5.1 points) and Bailey Shaffer.

“It’s great to have a solid number of returners that gain a decent amount of experience during last season,” Tate said. “Majority of our players returning averaged double minutes of playing time being young players without a lot of experience. Now having the four seniors and those key returners gaining that early experience, we hope it begins to pay off in certain game situations.”

The newcomers are Briana Knight, Kamryn Collins, Tia Thornton and Alyssa Guzman.

“I’m enjoying this class of newcomers a lot,” Tate said. “They have been a solid group, consistently show up to learn, and have been a joy to be around. Although a young group, they will have a great opportunity to get in the mix of things early and often this season.”

The home opener will be Tuesday against Park University and Ottawa closes the non-conference portion of the schedule Nov. 9 at Haskell Indian Nations University.

“Our schedule has remained tough regardless the level of experience we have had,” Tate said. “Not different this year — we will have to show up each and every night to give ourselves the best opportunity to be successful.”