NewsLady Cougars Look to Build off Winning Season in 2006-2007
written by Dave Parsons, Sports Information Director
MOUNT VERNON, Ohio - After posting the first winning season in five years, the Mount Vernon Nazarene University women’s basketball team will look to build off last year’s 15-14 mark when the Lady Cougars open the 2006-2007 on Friday with a non-conference game at home against Carlow (Pa.) University at 7:00 p.m.
With four returning starters, nine returning letterwinners overall, and five newcomers, MVNU will try to use a simplistic approach to post a successful campaign. "We have kept our goals simple this season and are not focusing on the season as a whole but simply on taking one game at a time,” said head coach Steve Gregory, who enters his ninth season with a 103-135 record at his alma mater. "We will be trying to improve each and every night and feel like we will be a much better team a month from now as we gain more experience. We have to figure out what each person’s roles are on this team and excel in those roles. That will help us reach our full potential.”
Leading the way for the Lady Cougars will be senior shooting guard Katie Keller. Keller, who needs just one three-pointer to tie the program’s career mark of 184 treys, has posted a 14.6 points per game average for her illustrious career and needs 475 points to tie the school-record of 1,718 career points currently held by former MVNU standout Tara Seiter (1995-1999). Keller was named to the National Christian College Athletic Association All-American Second Team last year.
"Katie was our leading scorer last year and she is a tremendous three-point shooter,” said Gregory. "Not only can she shoot and shoot deep, she can also slash to the basket and hit pull-up jumpers. She has a quick release and can make things happen by putting points on the board in a hurry. She also had 75 steals this past season and can make plays on both ends of the floor.”
Sophomore Rachel Fiely returns to guide the team from the point guard spot after averaging 10.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per game as a freshman while dishing out a team-high 122 assists to go with a team-high 79 steals. Fiely was named to the American Mideast Conference South Division All-Freshmen Team and was an AMC South Division Honorable Mention pick last year.
"Rachel is a warrior and a playmaker,” said Gregory. "She has a lot of versatility and can play several different positions. She will play more than just the point guard spot this year, but she is most valuable as our floor general at the point. She has really stepped up her perimeter shooting this year and is shooting the ball extremely well after changing her shot somewhat. She is a great slasher and gets to the free throw line a lot. She is also a great distributor and one of our top defenders.”
Junior wing Amy Sebastian returns to the starting lineup for the third straight year with a 12.5 career scoring average. Last season, Sebastian was an AMC South Division and an NCCAA East Region Honorable Mention pick while averaging 11.5 points and 5.7 rebounds per game.
"Amy gives us a lot of versatility as well because of her ability to handle the ball so well,” said Gregory. "She had a solid season last year and we feel like she is going to have a big year this year after changing a few of her shooting mechanics. She has been shooting the ball very well, and she will be tough to defend because of her ability to slash to the basket. She is a very good all-around player, who is very intelligent. She makes plays in her mind first and is always anticipating what the next play will bring.”
Sophomore guard Ashley Brown also returns to the starting lineup after averaging 5.1 points and 3.6 rebounds per game. She also dished out 65 assists with 41 steals in her first college season.
"Ashley is another warrior and only knows one way to play - all out,” said Gregory. "She brings so much to the team and has really stepped up her game and made herself into a great shooter. She also takes great pride in her defense. She is determined on both ends of the floor and is another of our playmakers. She is our back-up point guard and will play the 1-4 spots for us because she adds that much versatility. She has a very high basketball IQ and I expect her to having a coming-out part of sorts this year.”
The final probable starter for MVNU as the season gets under way will be sophomore center Melissa Mastrodonato. Mastrodonato averaged 3.6 points and 2.2 rebounds while playing in 17 games with one start in 2005-2006. "Melissa has been working hard on her posting seal techniques as well as her post moves,” said Gregory. "She received valuable minutes last year on the low block and is now ready to step into that role as our full-time center.”
Senior post Miranda Capuano and freshmen posts Ann Terhune and Julie Haumschild will add depth in the paint for the Lady Cougars. Capuano averaged 3.3 points and 3.1 rebounds last year for MVNU. Meanwhile, Terhune averaged 9.0 points and 8.1 rebounds as a senior at Middletown High School, and Haumschild contributed 5.3 points and 7.9 rebounds per game at Danville High School.
"I think that Miranda really relishes her role as the spark plug coming off the bench,” said Gregory. "She is an unselfish player who is ready to come and play her senior year. Meanwhile, Ann and Julie are in the process of learning what it means to play the post position at the college level.”
Sophomore guards Jessica Lynn and Bethany Hughes played in 21 and 28 games off the bench last year and will be the first two guards off the bench, while freshmen guards Brooke Jolly, Katy Childress, and Katie Rider will also add depth to the bench. Jolly was an All-Ohio Honorable Mention pick as a senior at Whiteoak High School, while Childress and Rider averaged 7.3 and 8.6 points per game at Mansfield Christian High School. Sophomore guard/forward Amanda Dickson rounds out the roster.
"Jessica is a strong perimeter shooter who really stepped up her game in the middle of last season and played a vital role in helping the team out,” said Gregory. "She takes pride in playing at both ends of the floor. Bethany is a tough kid who will be a solid role player for us. She is a very intelligent player who plays with a lot of intensity and heart. Brooke and Katy will contribute as the season progresses, and Katie and Amanda add to our depth on the bench.”
"Experience, team speed, and perimeter shooting will be three of the strengths of this team,” said Gregory. "The three-point line will be an area that we continue to utilize. We will be aggressive in the full court and the half court. We are a transition team that will look to utilize all 94 feet on the court.”
"To be successful this year, we are going to have to be more disciplined on both offense and defense,” Gregory added. "We have to make plays with our defense first rather than thinking that our offense makes plays for us. Our defense can create a lot of easier opportunities for us, and we have to realize that and make (defense) of paramount importance. We also have to be a better rebounding team this year.”
The Lady Cougars will play Carlow and Ohio State University-Marion both home and away in non-conference action while also playing non-conference games against Grace (Ind.) College and Myers University. MVNU will compete in the Muskingum College Tournament on November 17 and 18, and the Lady Cougars will also play at NAIA Division I schools Azusa Pacific (Calif.) University (ranked 14th in the preseason poll) and Westmont (Calif.) College on November 24 and 25 as the team takes a trip to the west coast.
In addition, the Lady Cougars will compete for the AMC South Division title with home and away games against nine teams in one of the most rugged conferences in NAIA Division II. Preseason conference favorite Cedarville University is ranked second in NAIA Division II, while Shawnee State University is ranked 24th. MVNU will also play Tiffin University, Malone College, Ohio Dominican University, Walsh University, University of Rio Grande, Wilberforce University, and Urbana University.