Women’s Basketball adds four recruits; three staff members

Baxter Arena. June 19, 2017. Photo courtesy of UNO Communications.

Kenneth Pancake
Sports Editor

Omaha, NE – When Head Coach Brittany Lange took the court last fall, she certainly wasn’t expecting to have to chase any recruits at the end of the season. Now, after a destructive off-season full of injury and departure, Omaha has added four recruits and three coaches to their lineup.

Freshman Sophie Johnston, along with junior college transfers Rayanna Carter, Juliana Chagas and Andi Pierce, will be joining the Mavericks for the upcoming school year. In addition, UNO hired coaches Josh Keister and Janet Butler, along with a director of operations, Emily Wood.

The Recruits

In a statement, Coach Lange said “We are excited to announce this recruiting class… All four of these student-athletes will inject toughness, work ethic, perimeter skill and pride into our program.” The field of recruits features two international students attending college in the United States: Sophie Johnston (Australia) and Juliana Chagas (Brazil). Rayanna Carter and Andi Pierce hail from Texas and Oklahoma, respectively.

Andi Pierce transfers from Northern Oklahoma College-Enid; however, before that, she played in reserve for in-conference foe Western Illinois. In high school, she averaged 44% accuracy from the field and 40% accuracy from the arc, along with more than 21 points per game in her senior year at Garber High School. She is known for being a “relentless worker” who “is known for her 3-point shooting skill.” Meanwhile, Sophie Johnston offers a contrast with “…her ability to get to the basket” and “attack the boards as a guard.” Johnston attended Hill Crest Christian College prior to her transfer.

Juliana Chagas, a 5-foot, 6-inch guard, transfers from Barton County Community College, where she averaged a whopping 64% from the arc. “Juliana is a competitor with an infectious personality and a great passion for the game,” said Coach Lange. Despite the focus on offensive firepower, Omaha also picked up Rayanna Carter, a 5-foot, 7-inch guard, “…a true point guard.” Lange also added, “She can lock people down on the defensive end and will be one of the fastest people in our league with the ball.”

These recruits are aimed to fill a large gap – after the conclusion of the season, Ellie Brecht (injury) and Amber Vidal (transfer) announced that they would not be coming back next season. Vidal led the team with 379 points, while Brecht led the team in three-point percentage with over 38% accuracy (for those with more than 20 attempts).

Coach Lange was unavailable for comment regarding the timeframe of the players’ eligibility on the court.

The Staff

Josh Keister and Janet Butler join the Mavericks as assistant coaches, while Emily Wood will take over the director of operations role.

“We’re very excited to have Josh join our staff,” Lange said. Keister was formerly an assistant coach with the Indiana State Sycamores, where he served as the interim head coach for 17 games last season, steering the Sycamores to a 9-8 record over that timeframe. Keister has also served on staff with Division II team Central Missouri and Division I team TCU.

In a later release, Lange stated “We’re thrilled to have Janet Butler and Emily Wood join our staff… I feel that we have equipped our team to be impacted by the best young people in the business.” Butler worked over the 2017-18 season as an assistant at Monmouth University, and was previously on staff at the University of Nevada. Wood, on the other hand, comes hot off a successful season with the Nebraska Cornhuskers, having played in all 31 games last season.

While Assistant Coach Rodney Rogan retained his position with the team, coaches Murren, Walker and Taylor vacated their positions at the end of the prior season. Sadie Murren moves on to be the Director of Operations for Kansas State University, and Coach Walker was announced as the head coach for the College of Saint Mary. Brianna Taylor, the previous director of basketball operations, chose to move back home to Texas