Import’s return boosts Albury-Wodonga Lady Bandits

US import Rachel Maenpaa has signed on for a second season with the Albury-Wodonga Lady Bandits.
US import Rachel Maenpaa has signed on for a second season with the Albury-Wodonga Lady Bandits.

THE Albury-Wodonga Lady Bandits significantly boosted their playing stocks yesterday with the re-signing of US import Rachel Maenpaa and the addition of former Canberra Capitals centre Lauren Angel.

Combined with last week’s signing of US forward-centre Emilee Harmon and returning local Maddy Plunkett, the Border outfit now has enough front court size to avoid being overwhelmed by the league’s bigger teams — something that happened all too often last year.

While Maenpaa’s return was always on the cards, her official re-signing adds a measure of continuity the club hasn’t enjoyed since Kiwi international Lisa Wallbutton departed at the end of the 2011 season.

The Wisconsin native averaged 15.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and two assists per game last year, despite missing several games with a back injury.

Lady Bandits coach James Ballinger said Maenpaa’s return to full fitness meant the Border club would have one of the more versatile players in the SEABL.

“It’s a great vote of confidence for not only the club but also given everything we went through last year, she can still see where we’re trying to go,” he said.

“She believes in the program and it’s a great tick of approval.

“It gives us great depth, she can stretch opposing defences and certainly gives us more options and flexibility to how we do things.

“We’ve now got four players between 190 and 193 centimetres; we’re starting to build a really good front court.”

Angel comes to the Lady Bandits following a four-year collegiate career at the University of Portland and stints with the Brisbane Capitals in the QABL and with the WNBL’s Canberra Capitals.

The 192-centimetre centre said she was excited to be joining the Border squad, having previously played with Plunkett and guard Claire Miller on several NSW junior representative teams.

“I’m really looking forward to playing here,” Angel said.

“I guess I can provide a bit of height; I know most of the girls and I’ve had a few practices with them already.

“They seem like a great bunch of girls and I think we’ll do pretty well.”