(Notre Dame, Indiana) The wait is almost over to the opening tip-off to the women's 2011-12 basketball season! New head coach Aimee Litka is prepared to begin a brand new season starting this Wednesday night at the Pfeil Center!
After a 5-26 effort last year, the Saints return some core players and pick up some solid recruits. The Saints had many positive break-through moments last year, and many things that they can build on this year.
The Saints return their top two returning scorers in sophomore 1st Team All-Conference Lindsey Steffen (Nappanee, Indiana) who averaged 15.4 ppg, and junior 2nd team All-Conference Lauren Malinowski (Dearborn Heights, Michigan) who averaged 16 ppg. Malinowski and Steffen also logged the most minutes last season, both averaging over 30 minutes per game.
Litka will inherit an ample amount of experience from last season especially in the backcourt, with sophomores Megan Eve (Scottsburg, Indiana), who started 26 games last season, Jillian DeLucia (Fishers, Indiana), who started 28 games, and Mary Fitzgerald, who started 27.
Litka will be looking for minutes from junior transfers Angela Byrd (Harvey, Illinois) at guard and Shalana Murray (South Bend, Indiana) in the frontcourt.
The Saints will also be relying on incoming freshmen Shelbi Westerhouse (Valparaiso, Indiana), Maggie Gondeck (Michigan City, Indiana), and J'Shante Gunn (South Bend, Indiana) to grab rebounds and put the ball in the basket at the forward positions.
The Saints have played two exhibition matches so far this season, including a scrimmage against the arch-rival Bethel College Pilots. Litka has seen great strides of progress in practice, and is anxious to see how everything will unfold on the court. Sophomore Mariah Salazar (South Bend, Indiana) and junior Jacques Donaldson (South Bend, Indiana) have both played well on both sides of the court in the preseason.
Litka will also be looking for sophomore guard Kristin Nikta (Chicago, Illinois) and sophomore forward Francesca McCarthy (Terre Haute, Indiana) to see increased roles this season. McCarthy will add some height on the blocks, and Nitka was 2nd on the team in 3-point percentage last season at 27%.
Holy Cross can run the floor with ease and out stole their opponents last year by 40, averaging over 11 per contest. Some keys to the season will be if the Saints can protect the ball and have the turnover ratio work in their favor. Litka has good reason to be optimistic about the upcoming season given the newcomers added to the roster and the return of two All-Conference players, paired with the depth of the backcourt.
Holy Cross will need to make up for its relative lack of size (no player on the roster stands more than 6 feet...Grace College has three), and may run into foul trouble with just one true returning forward in Jacques Donaldson, but transfer Murray will help before the workload trickles down to three true freshmen.
The Saints will face an experienced Lancer squad lead by 6 seniors that advanced in the NCCAA National Championship last season. Grace squeaked out a victory last year in the Pfeil Center 75-70.
Don't forget to stay fresh on everything Holy Cross Athletics at www.hcsaints.com!