Oct. 10, 2003
With one of the youngest Division I women's basketball teams in the nation, Loyola head coach Candy Cage can be nothing but positive about the upcoming season. The Greyhound roster includes one senior, two juniors, five sophomores and four freshmen with an average age of 18.8. "We are definitely young," Cage said. "But it is very exciting to have such a new group of players."
This season the Greyhounds have added four freshmen and a red shirt sophomore to the roster as a part of Cage and her staff's second recruiting effort. The freshman class includes guards Brittany Dunn, Ebony Toliver and Jill Glessner as well as forward Meghan Wood. Sophomore Vanessa Ruffin is a center who comes to Loyola from the University of Maryland, but will be forced to sit out for her NCAA year in residence. "We brought in five players that can play in our system," Cage said. "We have added depth at every position and have very high expectations for this team."
Senior captain Lindsay Cobb will be looked to for leadership both on and off the court. "Lindsay will have her hands full, that's for sure," Cage said. "But she has been the backbone of this team for so long, we completely trust she will get the job done."
If this year's freshman class is anything like last season, they will get their feet wet early and gain valuable playing experience from the get go. In the 2002-03 season, now-sophomores Katie Scherle, Jackie Valderas, Lauren Troupe, Krystle Harrington and Kerri-Lynn Orsini, all earned minutes from the season opener at Maryland to the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament, with Scherle, Valderas and Harrington also earning starting positions. Troupe and Orsini played key roles as reserve players and once Jill Henn returned from a pre season ACL injury, she contributed as well.
Cage sees all four of this season's freshmen as integral parts to the team's success from the season opener. "The sooner they mature as players and as a team as a whole, the better off we will be," Cage said. "This team has the potential to have awesome chemistry and we can not wait to see what they can do."
Here is a breakdown of the squad, position-by-position:
The guard position returns the fewest starters but has the most depth of any other position for Loyola. Senior Lindsay Cobb is the lone returning full-time starter from the 2002-03 team. The Greyhounds lost leading scorers Shontrese Smith and Jennifer Mitchell to graduation but still return four reserve players and have added three freshmen at the guard spot.
Cobb returns as the only player to start in all 28 games last season. She averaged six points, 2.4 rebounds and a team-high 4.2 assists per game. Not only did Cobb start in every game, she averaged the most minutes at 31.1 per game. Cobb also managed the team's best three-point shooting percentage at 32%. She also ranked second in the conference in assist/turnover ratio at 1.92 and in conference games posted a 2.11 ratio for the MAAC best. She reached her career assist total twice last season with seven in wins over UMBC and Niagara. Cobb will play both the point and two guard spots this season.
"Lindsay is an outstanding shooter and we expect big things in her senior year," Cage said.
Krystle Harrington will be expected to run the point this year after appearing in all 28 games and starting in four contests. Harrington averaged the most minutes of last season's freshmen at 20.2. She hit a game-high 10 points in last season's loss at Saint Peter's and had six assists in a win at home over Rider. With her lessons learned in 2003, Harrington is expected to take over the point-guard position for the Greyhounds.
"Krystle has been our true-point since she joined the team," Cage said. "She just needed to learn the system and she absolutely did that last season by watching and working with Lindsay. We trust her skills to lead this team on the floor."
Orsini saw action in 14 games and earned one start as a freshman. With a year under her belt, Orsini has a better read on the Loyola system and will compete for more playing time in 2003-04.
"Kerri-Lynn learned so much last season," Cage said. "Her role can only increase."
Henn returned from her pre season injury in the last 11 games of the season, averaging 6.3 minutes a game. She will look to establish herself as the teams most dangerous outside threat this season.
"Jill's injury definitely hurt us last year but we are excited to have her back," Cage said. "We are looking for Jill to really step up her play this season."
Junior Shannon Kelleher will take a medical red-shirt this season due to patella tendonitis but will be looked to in a leadership role.
"Since Lindsay is our only senior, Shannon will be a leader for our guards as well, Cage said. "She has an excellent knowledge of the game and can teach the underclassmen a lot about our system."
Freshmen Dunn, Glessner and Toliver will all be expected to contribute early. Dunn is a 5-8 guard who earned numerous honors in her senior season at Centreville high School in Virginia, including first-team all-defense, first-team All-Concorde District, third-team All-Northern Region, Northern Region All-Star and Washington Area High School Athlete of the Week. Glessner, 5-10, was a McDonald's All-America nominee and was named an Associated Press All-State twice in her career at Trinity High School in Mechanicsburg, PA. Toliver was named to the WCAC second-team, Gazette All-County, Prince Georges Journal All-County and an All-Metro honorable mention as a senior at Cage's alma mater, Elizabeth Seton High School.
"The guard spots are really wide open for anyone to step in with the graduation of Jenny and Shontrese," Cage said. "We'll have lots of options, it will just depend on whoever picks up the system first."
Forward is the strongest position for the Greyhounds as far as returning players, but one wouldn't think that when all of those returning players are just sophomores. Katie Scherle, Jackie Valderas and Lauren Troupe all return from their impressive rookie seasons. Both Scherle and Valderas earned starting positions throughout the year and Scherle was named the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference's Rookie of the Year for her contributions to the Loyola team.
Scherle appeared in all 28 games and earned the starting spot in the second round of the Virginia Tech tournament and maintained that spot for the final 16 games of the season. She is Loyola's leading returning point scorer and rebounder at an average of 8.6 points per game and 5.9 boards per game. Scherle earned the MAAC Rookie of the Week award six times throughout the season and earned the final honor at the close of the 2002-03 season. She posted two double-doubles during the season with 12 points and 12 rebounds at Rider and 14 points and 14 rebounds at Niagara. Scherle posted her bests in scoring and rebounding in home games against Niagara and Rider with 20 points against the Purple Eagles and 17 boards against the Broncs. She also posted a team best field-goal percentage at 55.3%, which ranked her third in the MAAC.
Valderas also appeared in every outing, starting in eight games as a freshman. She played an average of 18.7 minutes per outing. Valderas posted an average of 4.9 points and 3.3 rebounds while leading the team in blocked shots with 29 on the season; which ranked her fifth in the conference. She was named the MAAC Rookie of the Week once after scoring 10 points in a win over Iona. Valderas scored her season-high of 14 points in a 78-68 loss at Niagara.
Lauren Troupe is the final member of the returning forwards. Troupe appeared in 22 games, averaging 7.9 minutes of play. She has worked hard in the off season and will compete for a starting position in 2003-04.
Meghan Wood is the only addition to the forward group this season but Wood will make her presence felt early on. Wood is an outstanding rebounder with a terrific work ethic and will see significant playing time as a rookie. Wood's Carmel team won the 2003 league title as a senior. She averaged 27 points and 13 rebounds a game. She earned a plethora of awards throughout her career including the Conference I League D Most Valuable Player award.
Poole had an excellent freshman campaign and will be looked upon to add leadership as well as a greater role on the court to help this young team.
There is a method to Coach Cage's scheduling madness. One look at Loyola's tough schedule will show you, the Greyhounds aren't looking for any easy games. The non-conference schedule brings the Demon Deacons of Wake Forest to Reitz Arena for the home opener as well as American and Delaware making trips to the Evergreen Campus. And traveling won't be much easier, the Greyhounds will visit Bucknell, Georgetown and Maryland as well as local opponent UMBC. They will also take part in the Lafayette Holiday Tournament, taking on Liberty in the first round.
"We wanted to set the tone early, with Wake," Cage said. "We built an extremely tough non-conference schedule to prepare us for the MAAC. Many of the conferences best players are back, including the Player of the Year [Siena's Liene Jansone]. It's always competitive from top to bottom and we need to see tough competition early to allow our young team to get ready for that."
And they will get ready with two non-conference opponents, Delaware and Georgetown, having taken part in the WNIT and Liberty earning a trip to the NCAA Tournament. Not to mention that MAAC-opponent Manhattan earned an automatic bid to the national tournament and Siena also took part in the WNIT.
"We will not have a single gimmie-game on our schedule this year," Cage said. "Our team is so young, our objective is to get their feet wet early so that by the time the MAAC schedule rolls around, they will be seasoned veterans of this team."