November 16, 2010
Cortland women looking to defend crown
With Laing graduated, transfers must step up
Obviously the task of replacing the school’s all-time scoring and rebounding leader is daunting to say the least.
But that’s what the SUNY Cortland women’s basketball team is determined to do, as the defending conference champions get the 2010-11 campaign underway this evening with a non-league trip to Elmira College.
Though four-year starter and All-America selection Jessica Laing has departed after scoring 2,166 points and grabbing 1,305 rebounds during her stellar career, Coach Jeannette Mosher has collected some new talent to help this Red Dragon quest of repeating last year’s first place SUNY Athletic Conference finish.Six transfers — five of those off an Onondaga Community College squad out of Syracuse that finished second in the nation last season — will help out as Cortland comes off a successful 25-4 season where forward Laing averaged 20.4 points and 12.4 rebounds per game.
Getting those new faces to mesh with some returning talent is biggest challenge Coach Mosher faces heading into her 13th season at Cortland. The Red Dragons have tested their abilities in scrimmages against Wilkes College and the University of Rochester — Cortland ending last year with a loss to Rochester in the opening round of the NCAA Division III tournament.
“The chemistry has gotten better almost on a daily basis, which is a big thing for us because of who we return in certain spots and then bringing in that big transfer group,” Mosher noted. “That was a big concern, how will the chemistry work. Really, it’s been something we’re seeing develop every single day which is kind of exciting.”
There are only two seniors on this squad, returning forward Jennifer Patten and guard Jen Polan. Patten will probably miss the opener against Elmira after injuring her ankle during the pre-season.
“They really have to produce in games,” said Mosher of her two most experienced players. Patten averaged 7.5 points and 4.9 rebounds per game a year ago, while Polan averaged four points per contest.
“I think sometimes they were not there last year in terms of producing in games, and this is it,” the coach added. “They’ve got to do it for us if we want the depth, if they want to go out with a bang.”
Against Elmira, junior guard Micki Volpini from Newfield will be back in the starting line-up along with junior forward Mary Bruns. Volpini was the second leading scorer a year ago with a 13.3 scoring average, while Bruns averaged six points and six rebounds a game.
Three of the OCC transfers will also be starting, including former Jamesville-DeWitt high school teammates Brittany Cohen at guard and 6-foot-1 Megan Maycumber at center. Molly Byrne, an off-guard out of Bishop Ludden in Syracuse, is the other new starter.
Also off that OCC team looking to contribute are Caryn Crary from Skaneateles and Jen Collis from Tully. The other junior college transfer brought in is former Tompkins Cortland CC cager Makenzie Stilwell, out of Trumansburg.
“There’s no substitute for court time, so the fact they’ve been playing a lot of minutes at the college level has helped them with the adjustment,” said Mosher of the transfers on hand, guard Tori McGuinn also back for her sophomore season in Cortland. “That’s a big adjustment a lot of freshmen have to make.”
Mosher has a trio of freshmen looking to take that step up to the collegiate game. Six-foot Rosie McKee from Bethlehem has looked good in pre-season, with center Breanne Gasse out of Notre Dame Academy on Staten Island and forward Sarah Shine from Mount Sinai the other rookies.
“They don’t have to do anything flashy, because we have some people who can score,” Mosher said of the freshmen. “They just need to rebound, set good screens, run the offense, make good decisions and run the floor and they’ll be fine.”
Cortland’s depth would have been greater, too, if junior point guard Allyson Biordi had not injured a knee before practice started. She will miss the entire season after being a starter last year.
“This year we can get scoring from a number of people, which makes it a different type of team,” says Mosher. “Our girls, we really like to run, and of course it starts with your defense and rebounding. So you have to make sure that happens before you can even think about running. But that’s what they get excited about. I’m just trying to get them excited about the defensive part of it so we can actually do that.”
Cortland finished 17-1 in conference play last year, but with Laing gone Coach Mosher knows every SUNYAC team thinks this is the time to upend the Red Dragons. Still, she feels good about the potential of this team.
“Some days we look really good, and sometimes you can tell we have a long ways to go,” she said. “We really need a game to see where we’re at and to break the monotony of practice.”
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