Grace Lancaster in this 2017 photo. (Healey file photo)

This is a story that was done by Thomas Becker, and appeared on the GoPanthersGo website on Nov. 27.

FALL RIVER: Longtime fans of UPEI’s women’s basketball team can probably recall the sound of the Knickle cowbell rung loudly and proudly by an emphatic David Knickle during the late ’80s and early ’90s at a packed Alumni Gym. 

His three daughters, Lori, Susan and Stephanie, all suited up for the hometown Panthers and helped put UPEI on the map as a basketball juggernaut, winning AUAA championships in 1987, 1988, 1989 — which also included a national silver medal — and 1993. 

Each Knickle sister brought something different in terms of skill set, personality and approach to the game, but a common theme among them was their grit, resiliency and the innate desire to compete, and win. 

When the Panthers take to the court for the first time in 2021, Lori’s daughter Grace Lancaster will look to bring the glory days of old back to Prince Edward Island much like her mother had done 33 years earlier. 

“It’s honestly so cool to hear all the amazing stories of the three of them playing together and I’m very excited to make my own stories and memories, just as they did.” 

With history on their side, UPEI seemed to be a shoo-in for Grace’s basketball services. But what ultimately set them apart from other schools was the team’s competitive spirit and championship pedigree.

And once the Fall River, NS native made the decision to attend her mother’s alma mater, the feeling of immense pride filled Lori’s heart.

“She has grown up knowing green and white are special colours and that UPEI has played a pivotal role in my life. Now she gets to chart her own path with the university and its women’s basketball program which is pretty remarkable,” said Lori, who was a three-time AUAA all-star with the Panthers.

Since taking the job back in 2018, head coach Matt Gamblin has been keeping close tabs on Grace and he’s excited to bolster his backcourt with the skilled point guard.

“I’ve followed her development for a while now and I’m very confident in her ability to keep growing her game here in the green and white,” he said. 

Gamblin is quickly assembling a backcourt that will take the place of a U SPORTS MVP in Jenna Mae Ellsworth and an all-star in Reese Baxendale when they inevitably move on. Some coaches would dread that certainty, but Gamblin sees it as an opportunity for growth. With Grace joining newcomers Alicia Bowering and Devon Lawlor and emerging second-year talents Lauren Rainford and Madison Orser, the future still remains bright. 

Each guard brings something new to the table and Grace is no different. Her athleticism and feel for the game will allow her to defend at a high level right away and over her career with the Panthers. While her speed and agility will make her difficult to contain when she’s orchestrating plays at the point.

“I would describe myself as a very hardworking, tenacious and ambitious player,” Grace said. “I’m versatile around the net and gritty on both ends of the court.”

However, another quality that can’t be overlooked is her leadership — a trait fit for point guards — as she’s been working hard to find her voice to get the best out of her teammates. That paid dividends last season when the 17-year-old led the Lockview High Dragons to their first provincial berth in five years. 

“There were so many amazing moments that I experienced in my four years at high school, but that one was special.” 

Once fall of 2021 rolls around, Grace will finally get her chance to put everything she’s learned to the test. Lori is confident she can do it, but as any parent knows, a little bit of advice goes a long way.

“Never lose sight of your dreams and goals. Stay the path, work hard, be a great teammate and perhaps, most importantly, be confident. These days will be some of your greatest and most memorable, so cherish each step along the way,” Lori said.