Albury-Wodonga Lady Bandits coach says it's time for Rachel Maenpaa to shine

ALBURY-Wodonga Lady Bandits coach James Ballinger has called on US import Rachel Maenpaa to “step up” against a resurgent Frankston tomorrow night.

Having undergone pre-season arthroscopic surgery to her left ankle, Maenpaa has had an interrupted start to the Lady Bandits’ SEABL campaign but Ballinger said the Wisconsin native was ready to go against the Lady Blues at the Lauren Jackson Sports Centre.

For the first time this season, Albury-Wodonga will be close to full strength — only Maddy Plunkett, who has been ruled out for the season with a broken foot — will be missing.

Ballinger said he fully expected Maenpaa to be a meaningful contributor, giving the Lady Bandits a fourth scoring option alongside fellow import Emilee Harmon, centre Lauren Angel and Montana Farrah-Seaton.

“Absolutely, her time has come, her body is right now,” Ballinger said.

“There’s no excuses any more, she’s done extra shooting and it’s time for her to step up.

“But it’s been a good break for everyone; we’ve freshened up.

“We really addressed the issues with transition defence and our flow on offence.

“I’m confident if we play like we did against Sandringham, we’ll be very competitive with Frankston.

“The win over the Lady Sabres showed us how we can put ourselves to be in a good position to win.”

Having surprisingly split its first two contests at home, the Border club takes on a Lady Blues outfit that hasn’t tasted SEABL playoff action since 2005, the season before the Lady Bandits entered the league.

But it’s a reinvigorated Frankston club this season, having picked up pivot Emily Fryters (Knox) and guard Maddie Garrick (Bendigo) to go along with playmaker Nicole Romeo and forward Kelly Bowen.

With such a balanced attack, the Lady Blues have zoomed to a 4-1 start, good for second spot in the South Conference.

Ballinger admitted his charges would need to be “very careful” in how they defended Frankston’s fab four.

“Fryters, Garrick, Romeo, Bowen are four key elements in a very good team,” he said.

“Everyone on that squad does their job, no-one plays individually, they all do what it takes.

“We need to be very careful how we defend them, I’ve been very impressed with Frankston this season.”

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