December 2, 2008

Red Must Replace Top Scorers

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The 2007-08 season will certainly be a tough act to follow — the team captured the school record for wins, the Ivy League Player of the Year award, and not to mention Cornell’s first Ivy League title and trip to the NCAA Tournament. But with its three incoming freshman, two returning starters and one new assistant coach, this very different team is looking for very similar results.
After setting the single-season record for assists last season, junior captain Lauren Benson will again be relied on to run the Red offense.
“Lauren is an extension of the coaching staff,” head coach Dayna Smith said. “We try to give her free reign to be a leader on and off the court.”
Despite all that freedom, however, the coaching staff would like to redirect some of Lauren’s passes to the hoop and make her more of a scoring threat after losing the top-3 scorers from last year’s squad — Gretchen Gregg ’08, volunteer assistant coach Moina Snyder ’08 and senior Jeomi Maduka.
“Lauren has two years experience as a starting point guard, but her role is going to change somewhat in terms of the amount of leadership we expect and need from her,” said head coach Dayna Smith. “With the loss of so much scoring, she’s also going to have to step up her scoring role.”
The only other returning starter from last year, junior Allie Fedorowicz, will also be looked to to make up for the 31.8 points per game lost — which accounted for 49 percent of the offense. So far, Fedorowicz has gotten the job done, going 5-of-10 from behind the arc and scoring a career-high 19 points in the team’s win over Albany.
“With the loss of Gretchen Gregg, we needed a go-to shooter,” Smith said. “We wanted Allie to embrace that role, and I think she’s done that very well. She’s one of the smartest players on the team — a competitor with a really high basketball IQ.”
Junior guard Virginia McMunigal has joined her classmates Fedorowicz and Benson in the starting lineup early this season and is already tied for third on the team in scoring.
“Virginia has always been a good shooter,” Smith said. “… Her role is going to develop as the season goes on and she feels more comfortable with the increased amount of playing time.”
The Red only has 100 games of experience in the frontcourt — 82 from senior captain Shannan Scarselletta.
“Shannan obviously has played an important role in the last couple of years coming of the bench, but this year she is going to have to be the go-to forward,” Smith said. “She’s our only forward with game experience… But she doesn’t think ‘score first,’ she thinks ‘pass first.” She was named captain and has such a great attitude – she just needs to be a little more selfish!”
Joining Scarselletta in the frontcourt will be sophomore Susie Doyle. After seeing action in 18 games last year as a freshman, she has already made her presence felt with six rebounds a game. To add depth to the frontcourt, the team added three freshmen to the roster, all with the ability to play forward.
“We do expect some big things from the freshmen,” Smith said. “It’s fortunate – and unfortunate — that they are already being thrown in the fire.
“Allie Munson is a really strong, aggressive forward when she wants to be. Christine Vlasic is obviously our tallest player and possesses much needed height, which we can use to our advantage. And Allison Abt is a guard/forward whom we’re trying to make comfortable in the guard position right now… Every day they get a lot better, and hopefully by Ivy season they’ll be ready to play a lot of minutes and really help us out.”
On the way to the Ivy League title last season, the Red relied on just 9.8 minutes per game from the team’s three freshmen. This season, however, the new trio of rookies have already contributed 33.5 minutes a game. Although the desired destination is the same as last year’s, the path looks like it might be a little different.