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WOMEN'S COLLEGE BASKETBALL PREVIEW

The Baltimore Sun

STATE DIVISION I

COPPIN STATE

Affiliation: Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference

Coach: Derek Brown, eighth season (134-94)

2006-07 record: 25-8 (18-0, first-place MEAC)

Arena: Coppin Center (1,720)

Consensus MEAC favorite: Coppin State

Starters lost: Two

Outlook: With MEAC Player of the Year Rashida Suber among three returning starters for the Eagles, this looks like another league championship and possible NCAA tournament team for Brown. Suber, a senior guard, led Coppin in scoring last season with an 18.9 average. She also averaged 3.8 rebounds in a school-record 25-win season. There are nine letter winners back for this flourishing program, which has posted two straight 18-0 regular-season MEAC championship records. Coppin became the first team last season in MEAC women's basketball history to win a postseason game when the Eagles defeated St. Joseph's in the opening round of the Women's National Invitation Tournament. Suber, a preseason favorite for another league Player of the Year honor, teams with fellow senior Shalamar Oakley to form the top backcourt in the MEAC. Oakley was a first-team All-MEAC choice last season, averaging 12.6 points and 3.4 rebounds. Junior center Tanezia Harden is the third starter returning, and she anchors the inside game with averages of 8.1 points and 5.2 rebounds last season. Highly regarded freshman Arielle Townes from Joppatowne High in Harford County is one of four newcomers.

LOYOLA

Affiliation: Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference

Coach: Joe Logan, third season (38-22)

2006-07 record: 18-12 (12-6 MAAC)

Arena: Reitz (3,253)

Consensus MAAC favorite: Marist

Consensus Loyola prediction: Fourth

Starters lost: Four

Outlook: After losing nine players to graduation over the past two seasons, Logan will send a rather perfect blend of experience and youth on the court this season. Much of the offense will focus on senior center Vika Sholokhova, 6-foot-3, who was chosen MAAC Sixth Player of the Year and selected to the All-MAAC third team after transferring from Pittsburgh in time to play 19 games. She averaged 11.3 points and 7.5 rebounds in those 19 games. Fellow senior Meghan Wood averaged 8.8 points and 6.6 rebounds last season and is expected to join Sholokhova as the other featured offensive player for the Greyhounds. Two other top players for Logan are freshmen Candice Walker (Towson Catholic) and Meredith Tolley from Urbana in Frederick County. Walker, a point guard, was a second-team choice last year on the Sun All-Metro team. Tolley is a post player.

MORGAN STATE

Affiliation: Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference

Coach: Donald Beasley, third season (23-36)

2006-07 record: 18-13 (11-7 MEAC)

Arena: Hill Field House (4,250)

Consensus MEAC favorite: Coppin State

Consensus Morgan State prediction: Fourth

Starters lost: Two

Outlook: From afar, it may not have looked like Beasley ran the table last season in his second year as Morgan coach. But all he did was transform the women's basketball program from a perennial 10th and 11th place MEAC team into a sudden championship contender, win league Coach of the Year honors, guide the Bears to a school record for wins (18) at the Division I level, beat an Ivy League school (Cornell) for the first time on the road, finish fourth in the MEAC and advance to the program's third appearance in the league championship game. To top it all off, Morgan pulled off the final and sweetest feat for the school by upsetting rival Coppin State in the MEAC tournament semifinals, ending the Eagles' 49-game winning streak against MEAC opponents. Sophomore point guard Corin Adams will lead a charge of high expectations this season, coming off team-leading performances in scoring (13.4), assists (2.9), steals (2.6) and total blocks (17). Adams was also second on the team in rebounds (4.8).

MOUNT ST. MARY'S

Affiliation: Northeast Conference

Coach: Bryan Whitten, first season

2006-07 record: 12-17 (10-8 NEC)

Arena: Knott (3,129)

Consensus NEC favorite: Long Island

Consensus Mount prediction: Eighth

Starters lost: Three

Outlook: Senior Tiffany Green and junior Brianna Gauthier, both guards, will be the keys to success for new coach Bryan Whitten this season as he takes over a Division I program after recording a 220-103 mark in 12 seasons at D-III Kings College in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. Green needs 109 points to reach the 1,000-point plateau, after averaging 9.4 points and 2.9 rebounds last season and handing out a career-high 105 assists. Gauthier had a strong sophomore season, averaging 9.3 points and 4.7 rebounds while contributing 94 assists. Several highly regarded freshmen have entered the program, giving Whitten some high hopes. "They can't play like freshmen for long because they are going to be getting upper-class minutes," Whitten said. "They are going to get the opportunity to play a lot and right away."

NAVY

Affiliation: Patriot League

Coach: Tom Marryott, fifth season (50-66)

2006-07 record: 12-17 (6-8 Patriot League)

Arena: Alumni Hall (5,710)

Consensus Patriot favorite: Bucknell

Consensus Navy prediction: Sixth-place tie with Lafayette

Starters lost: Four

Outlook: All the leading scorers and rebounders have departed, leaving junior guard Kalen Kropa as the lone starter returning. She brings one major stat to the team this season: 4.8 assists a game, which led the Patriot League last season. Marryott said about Kropa, "Her experience in the league over the last two years makes her ready to accept an even bigger role on offense this season." Kropa averaged 3.5 points and 2.7 rebounds last season. Although Kropa is the only full-time starter returning, senior guard Ali Currier and junior guard Whitney Davidson combined to start half the games last season. Currier personifies the defensive toughness and has the work ethic and leadership Marryott is looking for, the coach said. He is hoping Currier can raise her overall level of play to help the team offensively. There are three highly regarded freshmen joining the team and sophomore K.C. Gordon comes aboard from the women's soccer team, prompting Marryott to comment, "We have more depth at all positions this year than last."

TOWSON

Affiliation: Colonial Athletic Association

Coach: Joe Mathews, seventh season (56-115)

2006-07 record: 17-12 (8-10 CAA)

Arena: Towson Center (5,000)

Consensus CAA favorite: Old Dominion

Consensus Towson prediction: Sixth

Starters lost: One

Outlook: While many area coaches are seeking to rebuild their women's basketball programs after being hit hard by graduation, Towson has four starters back to build on the momentum of last season's 17-12 record that established a program regular-season record for victories. There is plenty of depth in the backcourt as seven guards return from last season, including sophomore Shanae Baker-Brice, who led the team in scoring with a 13.7 average and was chosen to the CAA All-Rookie team. Baker-Brice scored 25 or more points three times, and Mathews says she can get even better if she becomes more of a complete player. Guards Holly Mahan and Jamell Beasley, the only seniors on the team, are expected to provide leadership. Mahan led the team in rebounding last season (7.4) and averaged 10.1 points as a starter. Beasley was the top reserve averaging 8.8 points and shooting 85.2 percent from the free-throw line. Said Mathews: "We have thought all along that this has the potential to be a very special group. This is probably our best group and our deepest group [in seven seasons]."

UMBC

Affiliation: America East

Coach: Phil Stern, sixth season (57-90)

2006-07 record: 16-17 (6-10 America East, America East tournament champions)

Arena: RAC (4,024)

Consensus America East favorite: Hartford

Consensus UMBC prediction: Sixth

Starters lost: Three

Outlook: Do you believe in miracles? The UMBC women do and so does everybody else who watched the seventh-seeded Retrievers upset the top three-seeded teams, including top seed and two-time defending champ Hartford, on consecutive days to bring home the team's first league title. UMBC was the first team in conference history to pull off such a feat, and it propelled the team to its first NCAA tournament, where the Retrievers lost to top-seeded Connecticut. This year's team will look a lot different; the top three scorers have departed. However, Stern expects shooting to be the strength of his team, which features four guards led by senior co-captain Kristin Drabyn. The other three returning guards are senior co-captain Morgan Hatten, sophomore Carlee Cassidy and junior Melissa Book.

UMES

Affiliation: Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference

Coach: Fred Batchelor, fourth season (39-49)

2006-07 record: 11-20 (8-10 MEAC)

Arena: Hytche Athletic Center (5,500)

Consensus MEAC favorite: Coppin State

Consensus UMES prediction: Seventh

Starters lost: Two

Outlook: Senior center Kristi Veltkamp, 6-foot-3, has been the MEAC's Defensive Player of the Year and a member of the league's All-Freshmen team. Now Batchelor is hoping she can lead a young UMES squad up from the lower echelon of the league standings. Veltkamp was 23rd in the nation last season in blocks (2.4 per game) and averaged seven points and five rebounds. Veltkamp is expected to join with last season's rookie standout April McBride, a 6-foot wing player, to produce many exciting moments this season. McBride led the team in scoring with a 10.5 average and rebounding at 7.5 last season. Also helping the Hawks' cause will be sophomore Tiffany Reid.

Divisions II, III

BOWIE STATE

Affiliation: Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association

Coach: Doug Robertson, third season (31-27)

2006-07 record: 18-11 (12-8 CIAA)

Outlook: Senior Allyson Swailes, a two-time All-CIAA selection, is the marquee player for a Bulldogs team that advanced to the semifinals of the CIAA tournament last season before losing to eventual champion North Carolina Central. Swailes led the team in scoring (14.8 average), rebounding (9.1), field-goal percentage (.471) and free throws made (117) last season, and was chosen for the 2007 CIAA All-Tournament team for a second straight year. The other starter returning is junior Markeya Watson, who was second in scoring (11.0) and rebounding (8.1) last season. Watson was also chosen last season for the CIAA All-Tournament team.

Division III

COLLEGE OF NOTRE DAME

Affiliation: Pennsylvania Athletic Conference

Coach: Rob Long, second season (18-7)

2006-07 record: 18-7 (9-1 Atlantic Women's Colleges Conference)

Outlook: Notre Dame made tremendous strides last season in Long's first year as head coach, recording a school-record 18 wins and making the Gators' first appearance in the NCAA Division III tournament. They lost in the first round to Mary Washington, which is ranked No. 1 in the nation in a preseason D3Hoops.com poll. Now, it's on to Madison Square Garden, where the new-look Gators play Cabrini College on Jan. 23. Senior Faith Wassink leads Notre Dame this season in a new league, the Pennsylvania Athletic Conference.

FROSTBURG STATE

Affiliation: Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference

Coach: Jody Pepple, seventh season (92-71)

2006-07 record: 17-9 (12-6 AMCC)

Outlook: Amanda LaPorta is the lone senior on this season's young version of the Bobcats, returning as the leading scorer with 10.4 points per game. One of the youngest teams in school history will send two juniors, eight sophomores and four freshmen on the floor in search of basketball success. Three returning sophomores, Brittany James, Sidra Bing and Shanell Williams, received valuable playing time last year and should get even more minutes this season.

GOUCHER

Affiliation: Landmark Conference

Coach: Didi Cotton, third season (10-35)

2006-07 record: 4-20 (2-12 Capital Athletic Conference)

Outlook: Goucher moves into the new Landmark Conference this season after facing some tough competition in the Capital Athletic Conference. Senior Gophers guard Shadae Swan (St. Frances Academy) led the CAC in scoring the past two seasons, including 20.6 points per game last season, but she couldn't lift her teammates to much success. Another senior, forward Francheska Guilfu, is back after averaging 13.3 points and 6.4 rebounds last season in just eight games because of injuries. To improve next season, Cotton believes her team must shoot better than the 33.1 percent it logged from the field last year and cut down on the 502 turnovers it had in 24 games.

HOOD COLLEGE

Affiliation: Capital Athletic Conference

Coach: Jay Butler, first season

2006-07 record: 5-18 (4-6 Atlantic Women's Colleges Conference)

Outlook: One year after the Hood men's basketball team ventured into a well-established Capital Athletic Conference, the Blazers women have headed in the same direction after dropping out of the Atlantic Women's Colleges Conference. Hood will make its debut this season in the CAC with two returning starters leading the way, sophomore forward Jennifer Willison, who averaged 14.2 points and 8.5 rebounds per game as a freshman, and junior guard Sara Wastler, who had 9.6 points and 4.4 rebounds per game last season.

JOHNS HOPKINS

Affiliation: Centennial Conference

Coach: Nancy Funk, 22nd season (375-165)

2006-07 record: 14-9 (12-6 Centennial)

Outlook: Hopkins returns 13 letter winners, led by senior center Andrea Dodrill, who was the team's second-leading scorer last season with 10.3 points a game and was tied for the rebounding lead with an 8.6. Dodrill was a Centennial Conference honorable-mention selection last year. Also returning are juniors Kristin Phillips, Jenna Berninger, Caitlin Sloane and Jonay Foster. Phillips averaged 7.7 rebounds as a sophomore, and Sloane hit 22 three-pointers last season.

MCDANIEL

Affiliation: Centennial Conference

Coach: Becky Martin, 28th season (388-246)

2006-07 record: 23-4 (17-1 Centennial)

Outlook: The Green Terror won almost everything in sight last season during a 19-game winning streak that established records for the school and conference. However, one loss in the Centennial tournament semifinals to eventual champion Ursinus cost McDaniel an automatic NCAA tournament bid. The Terror's streak allowed the team to receive its first-ever at-large bid to the NCAA tournament after winning the school's initial outright regular-season Centennial championship. Senior co-captains Robbin Gregg and Courtney Gogolinski are the two starters returning this season for the strong McDaniel program.

ST. MARY'S COLLEGE

Affiliation: Capital Athletic Conference

Coach: Barb Bausch, first season

2006-07 record: 12-13 (6-8 CAC)

Outlook: The top three scorers last season are among the four starters returning for a St. Mary's team that should be headed in the right direction after two straight losing seasons. Allie Scott, Stephanie Saint-Aubin and Megan Uglik are the top three returning scorers, respectively, while Lisa Daciek returns as the team's second-leading rebounder (6.4 rpg). If this team can stay healthy all season, the Seahawks will be a force in the CAC.

SALISBURY

Affiliation: Capital Athletic Conference

Coach: Charisse Mapp, first season

2006-07 record: 15-11 (8-6 CAC)

Outlook: For the first time in 17 seasons, Bridget Benshetler will not be mapping out plays on the sideline for the Salisbury women's basketball team, as Mapp takes over a traditionally strong program. The Sea Gulls have two returning starters in the backcourt, senior Meghan Phillips and junior Lindsay Martin. Phillips was a second-team All-CAC choice last season when she was second on the Salisbury team in scoring with a 13.6 average. Inside scoring and rebounding help should come from sophomore forwards Janay Johnson and Kylie Hall.

VILLA JULIE

Affiliation: Capital Athletic Conference

Coach: Chris Ramer, 13th season (52-222)

2006-07 record: 19-10 (13-3 North Eastern Athletic Conference)

Outlook: Villa Julie is taking a bold step into a much stronger Capital Athletic Conference this season after an outstanding final year in the North Eastern Athletic Conference. Ramer said about entering the new league, "We need all the experience we can get and more." The Mustangs will be facing the likes of Marymount University, York College and Salisbury this season, with four-year starters Tanisha Foster and Tonia Cristino leading the way. Foster averaged 14 points and 10 rebounds per game as a junior, and Cristino, a point guard, averaged seven points and 3.5 assists.

WASHINGTON COLLEGE

Affiliation: Centennial Conference

Coach: Steve Kaneshiki, first season

2006-07 season: 12-13 (6-12 Centennial)

Outlook: The Shorewomen took some important steps forward last season with some impressive victories, and now the team is looking for more consistency under a new coach. There are four starters and nine players back from last season, with versatile senior guard Elise Conway leading the way. Conway (9.1 ppg, 3.5 apg) had 51 steals and 28 blocks. Sophomore guard Jane O'Donnell came off the bench last season to lead the team in scoring at 12.5 points per game.

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