Heading into tomorrow’s St. Bonaventure Shootout at the First Arena in Elmira, the women’s basketball team will look to start its season off exactly as it did last year – with a victory. But that’s about the only thing the Red wants to duplicate from the 2004-05 campaign. After an opening-season triumph, the women finished last season with only two wins in 29 games, including a last place Ivy League record of 1-13.
“We were a team of very young women last year, and we often played like it,” said head coach Dayna Smith.
First up for Cornell will be St. Bonaventure, a team which the Red has beaten six of eight times in the all-time series. In the two squads’ last match up on Dec. 17, 2000, Cornell triumphed 86-74. On Sunday, Cornell will face either Albany, against whom the Red has never lost, or Niagara, who holds the all-times series edge on Cornell 10-5.
Like last season, the women cagers have a young squad. Seven of the 16 players on the roster are freshmen, and only three are seniors. Furthermore, the team will start a rookie point guard in Kayleen Fitzsimmons, a risky move considering her lack of experience. Nonetheless, the team is confident in its first-year starter, and that this season will turn out differently than the last one.
“We’ve been working on being patient – [and] staying positive,” Fitzsimmons said.
Part of the Red’s confidence actually comes from the new players on the squad. Along with the versatile Fitzsimmons, Smith recruited bigger forwards to establish a post presence – something she felt was missing from last year’s team. Those forwards include classmates Jordan Cornett, Jeomi Maduka, Ashley Rogge, and Shannan Scarselletta.
“The post presence will definitely open some things up for the guards,” Smith said.
Smith is optimistic that this will give the team more balance on offense, and allow it to have more success scoring.
Another change in strategy brought on by the forwards is the ability to run. This team, thanks in part to its athletic new talent, is much more mobile than last season.
Therefore, Smith wants her squad to push the ball up the floor in an effort to get some easy buckets.
That’s just what sophomore guard Lindsay Krasna is excited about. “It’s the easiest way to score points,” she said.
Last season, Krasna, an Ivy League All-Rookie honoree, led the Red with 12.3 points per game. She was also among the team leaders in rebounds, assists, and steals, and set the women’s record for free-throw percentage in a single season at 87.1.
Smith also knows her team’s experience will help improve its defense. Cornell allowed 14.1 points per game more than it scored last season, and Smith knows that unless that trend changes, wins won’t come.
The team will rely heavily on the experience of its seniors – captains Sarah Brown, Brittani Retig and Hillary Seidel – to help it improve and learn throughout the season. The team had no seniors last season, and as Krasna pointed out, having veteran leadership is going to make a big difference.
How much of a difference do all these changes really make? The Red will find out tomorrow night.
Archived article by Josh Perlin
Sun Staff Writer