NewsLady Cougars Excited to Get 2005-2006 Season Under Way
written by Dave Parsons, Sports Information Director
MOUNT VERNON, Ohio - With four returning starters and a new defensive philosophy, the Mount Vernon Nazarene University women’s basketball team is excited about its prospects as the Lady Cougars prepare to tip off the 2005-2006 season.
Coming off a 7-20 finish a year ago, head coach Steve Gregory made the decision to overhaul the defensive scheme and switch to a more pressure defense. "We will be playing an exciting brand of basketball this year,” said Gregory, who enters his eighth season at his alma mater with an 88-121 overall record. "We will be in constant fastbreak mode looking to take advantage of our transition game. We are going to get after teams on defense and put a lot more pressure on our opponents in the halfcourt setting. This will match perfectly with our transition defense. I would characterize each as high octane.”
Leading the way for MVNU will be four experienced returning starters from a year ago. Senior center Erin Arnett (6-foot-2) will look to close out her four-year career in fine fashion after averaging 11.7 points and 6.6 rebounds as a junior in being named to the National Christian College Athletic Association East Region Team and earning American Mideast Conference South Division Honorable Mention honors.
"Erin has worked hard to improve her game and take it to the next level in her final season of competition,” said Gregory of the team’s lone senior who needs exactly 200 points to reach the 1,000-point mark for her career. "She has really gotten good at her post-ups and seal techniques. Her post moves have also continued to improve, and I think she is going to have a huge impact for us this season as we try to achieve a harmonious accord with our perimeter and post game.”
Junior shooting guard Katie Keller (5-foot-6) returns for her third season after averaging 11.9 points a year ago with 73 assists and 51 steals as she was named to the NCCAA East Region Team and earned AMC South Division Honorable Mention status.
"Katie is a very strong shooter who has improved in several other areas,” said Gregory of Keller, who could also surpass the 1,000-point mark this season. "She has been a pleasant surprise with the new defense being installed. She has been one of our better perimeter defenders and has gotten a lot of offense out of her individual defense in the preseason. She can hit the three-pointer or slash and make plays off the dribble. We will count on her offensively to make a big difference for us.”
Sophomore wing Amy Sebastian (5-foot-9) also returns after an outstanding freshman campaign in which she started all 27 games and led the team in scoring (13.5 points per game) and steals (60) to go with 4.8 rebounds per game and 61 assists. For her efforts, she was named to the NCCAA East Region Team, the AMC South Division All-Freshmen Team, and the NCCAA Honorable Mention All-American Team as well as being an AMC South Division Honorable Mention pick.
"I was pleasantly surprised with Amy’s abilities and the impact she had on our program during her freshman season,” said Gregory. "She is another player we are counting on to step up her production from a year ago. A bigger guard/forward, Amy can handle the ball, pass it well, rebound, and defend. She became sort of our ‘stopper’ on defense last year, and she has impressed the coaching staff with her outstanding overall game.”
The final returning starter is sophomore forward Madisyn Helton (6-foot-2), who averaged 7.6 points and 6.6 rebounds in her first college season and blocked a team-high 45 shots as she made 20 starts and played in all 27 games.
"Madisyn worked her way into the starting lineup early last year and never relinquished her spot,” said Gregory. "She is probably our best athlete and has really improved this off-season. I expect her to be a much bigger contributor offensively to go along with her stepping up her production in the rebounding and shot blocking departments. She is a very aggressive and scrappy player who shoots the ball deceptively well from three-point range.”
Junior forward/center Miranda Capuano (6-foot) is the final returning player and will add depth in the post. Capuano averaged 5.0 points and 3.2 rebounds last season. "Miranda has had a very good preseason and is poised to have a very good year,” said Gregory. "She can score when she gets the ball down low on the block, and she has also stepped it up on the perimeter for us in the preseason.”
Freshman guard Rachel Fiely (5-foot-7) is slated to start at the point guard spot for the Lady Cougars as they open the season. She comes to MVNU after averaging 18.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 4.8 assists as a senior at Greenville High School where she was a two-time All-Ohio Honorable Mention selection.
"Rachel comes into the program with impressive credentials following a very decorated high school career,” said Gregory. "She has impressed the coaching staff with her tough-nosed defense, and I think she will be a pleasant surprise offensively. She scored in high school, but the point guard position at the college level is not one that is thought of as a scoring position. She can handle the ball, pass it, slash with it, and score with it. She has done an outstanding job of coming in and picking up a very complicated defensive scheme as well as a very thick offensive playbook.”
Freshman guards Tiffany Youel (5-foot-4), Ashley Brown (5-foot-8), and Jessica Lynn (5-foot-7) will add depth at the guard positions. Youel, who averaged 15.7 points and was a two-time All-Ohio Honorable Mention selection at Meadowbrook High School, will see time as the back-up point guard as well as at the shooting guard position. Brown, who played at perennial power Wadsworth High School, is one of the team’s hardest workers, while Lynn was an Honorable Mention All-Ohioan at Cambridge High School and averaged 14.2 points in her final season there.
Freshman post Melissa Mastrodonato (5-foot-10) adds depth in the paint for the Lady Cougars after earning All-Conference honors at Lakewood High School. She has worked hard in the preseason to develop some other post moves to go with her turnaround jump shot, and she has a very soft touch around the basket. Freshman guard Bethany Hughes (5-foot-8) from Wayne Trace High School and freshman post Amanda Dickson (5-foot-10) from Fairfield Christian Academy round out the roster for MVNU.
The Lady Cougars will open the 2005-2006 season at Concordia (Mich.) University on November 1. Then, the team will travel to Trevecca Nazarene (Tenn.) University, which is ranked 13th in the NAIA Division I preseason poll. The team will also play non-conference games against the University of Michigan-Dearborn, Houghton (N.Y.) College, Kentucky Christian University, Ohio State University-Newark, Capital University, and Kenyon College.
MVNU will also look to improve on its 3-15 AMC South Division record from a year ago. The Lady Cougars will play home and away games against Cedarville University, which is ranked second in the NAIA Division II preseason poll after its second straight national tournament runner-up finish, Shawnee State University (ranked 22nd), the University of Rio Grande (receiving votes), Ohio Dominican University, Walsh University, Malone College, Tiffin University, Urbana University, and Wilberforce University.