SHE’S roughly 700 kilometres from her native Newcastle but Albury-Wodonga Lady Bandits playmaker Sophie Kleeman feels right at home on the Border.
The 165-centimetre point guard switched to the Border club this season after four years with her home-town Newcastle Hunters and hasn’t regretted it for a minute.
Already quite familiar with the area thanks to an extensive junior representative career with NSW, Kleeman said she was enjoying the challenges the higher standard SEABL presented.
“I’m having a great time, everyone has been very welcoming,” Kleeman said.
“I didn’t really have any great expectations, I just thought I’d come in with a positive attitude and it’s been like every other team I’ve been in.
“The standard is about what I expected; I’ve been playing in the Waratah League for the past four years and it’s definitely a higher standard here.
“Every weekend we’re competing and playing against top-level players, so it’s been good.”
Shooting-wise, the 23-year-old has had a rocky start to her rookie SEABL season, hitting just eight shots from her first 59 attempts at a brutal 13.5 per cent.
But Kleeman appeared to turn the corner in last week’s road double against Ballarat and Kilsyth.
A nine-point, four-assist performance in the overtime defeat to the Rush was followed with a career-high 12 points against the Lady Cobras.
“I hadn’t been shooting well until this past weekend,” Kleeman said.
“So it was good to finally hit some shots.
“I think I went out there and relaxed because after a few games of bad shooting I was putting too much pressure on myself.
“So it was good to just relax and have fun.”
The Lady Bandits are presently riding a five-game losing streak, having not tasted victory since their upset win over Sandringham in round 3.
They play host to south conference powerhouse Bendigo tomorrow night, a team Albury-Wodonga hasn’t beaten since 2009.
Kleeman admitted the frustration has mounted as the losses have piled up but remained optimistic the Border outfit could challenge the second-placed Lady Braves.
“It is disappointing,” Kleeman said.
“And it’s definitely frustrating because last weekend we were so close to beating Ballarat.
“But we’re definitely getting better; I think that was the best team game we’ve played.”
Tip-off at the Lauren Jackson Sports Centre is 6pm, with the men’s game to follow at 8pm.