Change is nothing new for Alyssa Ramos.
The Southeastern guard came to Lakeland from Southern California, where she played for four head coaches at Tri-City Christian in Vista, Calif. Ramos came to play for Drew Watson, under whom she was named Sun Conference Freshman of the Year in 2014.
But Watson retired following the season, and head coach Jody Martinez took over.
Ramos thrived in Martinez’s run-and-gun offense, leading the conference in 3-point shooting while helping to guide the Fire into the NAIA tournament for the first time in program history.
But Martinez left the program in July to take an assistant coaching job with the University of Illinois.
Now entering her third season, Ramos will be playing for her third coach in Leann Dahlstein. After spending much of last season getting comfortable in Martinez’s system, the Fire now must to the same this season under Dahlstein if they want to return to the postseason.
“It’s hard,” Ramos said. “It’s really just learning how to adjust and be flexible with everything. It’s crazy, the differences between my first year, second year and third year. Just different leadership styles. It was hard at the beginning, but it’s really starting to come together.”
Southeastern returns much of last season’s 25-win team. Where the team loses experience in guard Emma Loucks and forward Hannah Demarest, it fills the need in a pair of transfers from Florida Southern: guard Ali Sanders and forward Christin Strawbridge.
That leaves Dahlstein, 25, with a team ready to make another run for the NAIA tournament. The question is how does she put it all together?
“They’re just ready for somebody to lead them and show them the way they want to go,” said Dahlstein, who served as a graduate assistant at Southeastern in 2013-14. “I think it’s like me learning to trust them just as much as they’re learning to trust me, too.”
Under Martinez, Southeastern was one of the country’s most prolific shooting teams. The Fire attempted 1,114 shots from 3-point range — about 57 percent of their offense came from behind the 3-point line — and it resulted in the Fire leading the conference in scoring at 73 points per game.
Dahlstein’s approach at Central Christian College of the Bible in Missouri was more along the traditional idea that defense is your best offense. Dahlstein led Central Christian to a 20-8 record in her second season last year, losing in the NCCAA title game.
But with the shooters from last season and the post scorer the team lacked in Strawbridge, she hopes to blend the two styles together.
“Jody had to run-and-gun; that was the smart thing to do, they were a small team,” Dahlstein said. “With the strength that we have in the post, it’s a lot easier for us to play a more half court, breakdown style.”
Senior guard Carlie Newman said the team knows it has the talent offensively, but noted that Dahlstein’s focus has been on defense. The hope is to get away from the mentality that, as long as the Fire can out-shoot and out-score the opposition, they’ll be fine.
“We’re coming together slowly, but we may not peak as early as we would have,” Newman said. “By the end of the season, we’re going to be where we want to be and always going to be working together as hard as we can.”