Boston College The success of the Eagles’ season will rest on the shoulders of an experienced – if injury-prone – team of reliable players.

BC will benefit from the return of three strong fifth-year seniors. Becky Gottstien went from the 2000-01 MVP to MIA last year when multiple stress fractures sidelined the leading forward after just four games and earned her a red shirt for the season. If back in top form, Gottstein looks to live up to her junior year averages of 15.4 points and 8.1 rebounds per game and will factor heavily into the overall success of the team.

Expectations for guard Brianne Stepherson are high – after starting in every game last season and leading the team in assists, Stepherson has already been named as a Naismith Player of the Year candidate. Forward Kim Mackie, a tough defender and solid overall player, will return to the court as a starter after missing just one game last season because of a concussion. Both Mackie and Stepherson sat out during their junior year two years ago with season-ending injuries.

Additional experience will come from junior guard Amber Jacobs, who was a consistent element last season, starting every game. Her 11.9-point per game average made her the Eagles’ top scorer and placed her at No. 20 in the Big East.

Senior forward Adriana Spears and sophomore guard Jessalyn Deveny both came on strong at the end of last season, and could continue that momentum into the coming year. Deveny shook off a stress fracture early in the year to play in 21 games and ended up on the Big East All-Tournament team.

The freshman class looks to contribute primarily in the frontcourt. First year center Lisa Macchia could prove a valuable asset if her high school averages – 27 points and 19 rebounds per game – follow her into the collegiate game. Macchia already has an impressive 2,047 points and 1,562 rebounds under her belt from her five-year high school career. Freshmen forwards Brooke Queenan and Nicole Warren, as well as guard/forward Aja Parham, bring youth and solid high school stats to the older, experienced team.

The Eagles will open their season at home in a Nov. 24 game against Siena.

– Amanda McGrath

Connecticut In the past decade, women’s basketball has become an institution in Connecticut. Since the University of Connecticut rose to prominence in the sport during the early 1990s, squads from Storrs, Conn., have captured three national titles and recorded two perfect seasons in 1995 and 2002. They have captured the last nine consecutive Big East regular season and tournament titles, and have been continuously ranked in the Associated Press national poll for 159 weeks, a streak still alive entering the 2002-03 season.

Last year, the Huskies completed one of the most successful seasons in the history of the sport, going 39-0 en route to capturing the national title by defeating Oklahoma 82-70. Connecticut was led by senior starters Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Asija Jones and Tamika Williams and sophomore standout Diana Taurasi. At season’s end, Bird was named National Player of the year by the Associated Press, WBCA and USBWA, among other honors. All four seniors went on to be among the top six picks in the 2002 WNBA Draft.

Losing all but one starter would be a disastrous occurrence for most teams, but, as always, Connecticut seems to be on top of its game. Led by Kodak All-American Taurasi, the team garnered the third position in the ESPN/USA Today pre-season poll, behind perennial powerhouses Duke and Tennessee. Also returning to aid the Huskies are junior Maria Conlon, sophomore Ashley Battle, sophomore Jessica Moore and sisters Morgan and Ashley Valley – a junior and a freshman respectively. Conlon, Battle and Ashley Valley each played in all 39 games of the Huskies’ season, while Morgan Valley played in 16 games before foot injuries landed her on the bench. Routinely one of the first players called off the bench last year, Moore is the lone returning member of the Husky backcourt.

Also helping Connecticut stay in the forefront of the sport and atop the national polls is a strong recruiting class of freshmen led by 2002 High School Player of the Year Ann Strother. Seventeen-year Head Coach Geno Auriemma is also looking for promise among the other members of the class of 2006 – Willnett Crockett, Barbara Turner and Nicole Wolff.

The Huskies open their regular season schedule against Wright State on Nov. 22, at Harry A. Gampel Pavilion on the Connecticut campus in Storrs. The team’s first Big East Conference game is not until Jan. 8, when Connecticut takes on Rutgers at the Hartford Civic Center.

– Mary Goundrey Miami Playing in the newly-opened 7,000-seat Convocation Center; the Hurricanes will be riding high on the success they experienced at the end of last year that propelled them into the WNIT.

With nine returning letter winners, including four starters, Head Coach Ferne Labati and her team have all the adornments of a postseason contender. Senior guard Meghan Saake will retain her leadership role. Saake, who recorded an average 11.2 points per game and led the conference with 3.9 steals per game, was honored at the end of last season as Big East Defensive Player of the Year. Senior Hutashi Wilson, who started 21 games last season and averaged 5.6 points per game, will aid her.

Junior forwards Chanivia Broussard and Shaquana Wilkins will lead the offensive attack. Broussard earned All-Big East Second Team honors last year and finished 10th in the conference in scoring with 14.2 points per game. Wilkins started 24 games and made a big impact last year by averaging 8.7 points per game and a team-best 6.0 rebounds per game.

Freshmen Tamara James and Kathryn Hayek are the leading newcomers, and each should vie for playing time at the guard position. Freshman Tatjana Marincic will also demand court time from veterans in both the backcourt and the frontcourt.

– Michael Kurdyla

Notre Dame With 10 letter-winners returning and five sophomores poised to make big contributions, Notre Dame’s women’s basketball program expects big things in 2002-03.

Head Coach Muffet McGraw looks to continue to transform Notre Dame into one of the nation’s elite programs and to guide the Irish to their eighth straight NCAA Tournament.

Notre Dame, tied with Connecticut for first place in the preseason Big East coaches’ poll, certainly has the personnel to keep the streak alive. Leading the otherwise young team is senior guard Alicia Ratay, a three-year starter and preseason All-Big East First Team member. Ratay was third in the conference in scoring last season, averaging 15.4 points per game. Joining her in the backcourt will be junior guard Le’Tania Severe, who started 24 games for the Irish last year and averaged 4.9 assists per game.

Also named to the preseason All-Big East First Team was sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast, the 2002 USBWA and Big East Rookie of the Year. Batteast is quickly developing into one of the country’s premier players, ranking among the Big East leaders in points, rebounds, blocks and double-doubles her first year.

Four other sophomores will see considerable playing time this season. Center Teresa Borton and forward Katy Flecky will likely get the bulk of the starts in the frontcourt along with Batteast, while fellow second-year forward Kelsey Wicks and guard Allison Bustamante will be key reserves.

Senior guard Karen Swanson, junior guard Jeneka Joyce and sophomore guard Jill Krause give McGraw a deep bench that will allow Notre Dame to play the aggressive defensive scheme that has been key to its success in recent years.

– Jon Shoup-Mendizabal

Providence The Friars were not impressive last season, finishing with a 13-15 record, and are looking for improvement this year. The addition of new Head Coach Susan Yow, a 19-year veteran of Division I basketball, could be the force Providence needs to push the team to a higher level of performance.

Providence will find its strength in the backcourt with three strong guards. Sophomore Michal Epstein was a powerful player in the Friars’ first exhibition game this season against Bryant, leading the team with 14 points. Last year she averaged 8.2 points per game. Junior Kristen Quinn, a versatile player averaging 5.2 points per game, looks to make her mark this year after a knee injury kept her from performing at her best most of last season. With more experience and notable long-range ability, senior Brooke Freeburg will also play an important role for the Friars.

The frontcourt will benefit from the guidance of sophomore center Jessica Simmonds, the Friars’ top returning player, who was selected for the Big East All-Rookie team last year. Simmonds averages 8.4 points per game and is expected to dominate play.

Juniors Ryann Kilgore, at forward, and guard Katie Keefe, should pick up the bulk of Providence’s defensive play.

The lone freshman, point guard Elaine McCants, brings a fresh face and an impressive high school record to the Friars.

– Amanda McGrath

Pittsburgh With a new director of operations, a new stadium and three returning starters, the University of Pittsburgh appears to have a strong team for the 2002-03 season.

Taking over the director’s position is Carolina Blanco, who has interned at the WNBA, managed Duquesne’s women’s team and acted as a camp counselor at Georgetown’s women’s basketball camp. “I am very happy to have Carolina as a member of our staff,” Pittsburgh Head Coach Traci Waites said in a press release. “She has a great attitude and wants to be a part of women’s basketball. Her passion for the game will be a great attribute to where we want to go with our program.”

The new stadium, called the Petersen Events Center, will hold 12,000 people and hopefully inspire a winning tradition for the team, as was the case in previous seasons.

The senior guard tandem of Laine Selwyn and Brooke Stewartwill should be a force this season. Selwyn led the team and ranked 10th in the league for points scored per game (14.6) and could potentially be one of the best guards in the Big East. Senior center Mandy Whittenmyer is healthy after last year’s ankle injury and hopes to equal last year’s 13.1 points and seven rebounds per game. Senior Dallas Williams will stay at forward and many freshman and sophomores will also see time off the bench.

– James McEvoy

Rutgers Known as a powerhouse of Big East basketball over the past 10 years, during which they regularly appeared in the national top 25 rankings, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights experienced a letdown last year, finishing 9-20 and out of any contention for a conference or national championship. Head Coach Vivian Stringer believes that the 2001-02 season was an anomaly caused by a rash of injuries and a lack of team chemistry stemming from a starting lineup that changed its look from game to game. This year, however, the Scarlet Knights expect nothing less than to bounce back and vie for a Big East title, seeking a return to the national spotlight in the process.

Such optimism is not unfounded; the four top scorers from last year’s team return, including three regular starters. Senior auri Horton, the team’s scoring and three point leader, will team up with junior Dawn McCullough to form one of the Big East’s most potent backcourts.

Sophomore centers Amber Petillon and Rebecca Richman should provide some solid rebounding and scoring in the post with sophomore forward Mariota Theodoris and highly touted Purdue transfer Shalicia Hurns adding frontcourt depth. The most important addition to the team, however, will be the long awaited arrival of Cappie Pondexter, a talented sophomore combo guard who was the 2000-01 high school player of the year, but was forced to sit out last year in accordance with NCAA initial-eligibility standards.

– Greg DeTrolio

St. John’s Red Storm fans are no doubt impatiently waiting for the start of the 2001-02 season, if for no other reason than to distance themselves from the memories of last year’s nightmarish 3-24 campaign. There is a future for St. John’s women’s basketball, however, and it may start with first year Head Coach Kim Barnes Arico.

Arico comes to St. John’s from Adelphi, another New York City school, where her team posted an impressive .730 winning percentage in her three-year tenure. She should provide plenty of energy and youth both during game situations and on the recruiting trail in the years to come, but has not given up on the 2002-03 season just yet, as the Red Storm return seven players from last year’s squad.

Sophomore Patrycja Gulak is the Red Storm’s centerpiece, as she is the team’s top-returning scorer and rebounder, posting 9.4 points and 5.9 rebounds in her freshman campaign. Her production should increase noticeably this year, and she should develop into St. John’s most important player in the years to come. Senior forwards Amanda Rawson and Creasie Fowler will supply plenty of experience and leadership while providing a balanced attack in the frontcourt, with freshman Lauren Galloway, the Red Storm’s most highly regarded recruit, providing depth. Junior guards Shemika Stevens and Nora Gyuris showed flashes of their great potential in limited action last year, but should see the bulk of the minutes in the backcourt in 2002-03.

– Greg DeTrolio

Seton Hall Under the capable direction of 18-year Head Coach Phyllis Mangina, the Pirates are expected to build upon last year’s respectable 15-14 record, which the team believes would have been even more impressive were it not for several critical, ill-timed injuries. In 2002-03, the Seton Hall women’s squad will finally be healthy and complete, and with nine letter winners, including the team’s leading scorer (13.0 points per game) and rebounder (7.3 rebounds per game), senior forward Leslie Ardon, who was lost for the majority of last season with a knee injury. Ardon is a versatile player as well as a team leader, who will provide hustle, defense and scoring both in the post and on the perimeter.

In the backcourt, senior guard Simona Burgess should retain her starting role at the point, which she earned and solidified with solid play at the end of last season. Starting alongside of her at shooting guard will most likely be Melissa Langelier, a three-point specialist who played her first season for the Pirates last year after transferring from Kentucky.

In the frontcourt, senior Charlene Thomas, the team’s second leading scorer and rebounder behind Ardon, should solidify the team in the post, with senior Cecilia Lindqvist adding scoring and ball-handling ability on the wing. LaNedra Brown, a 6-foot-2 junior who sat out last season after transferring from Duke, should add some much needed depth to shore up the frontcourt for Seton Hall. In all, this looks to be a promising year for Mangina and the Pirates.

– Greg DeTrolio

Syracuse The Orangewomen hope to match last season’s outstanding performance of an 18-13 record (9-7; sixth in the Big East) and a trip to the NCAA Tournament. Under the leadership of Head Coach Marianna Freeman, who headed the team last year, it could happen again.

Unfortunately for Syracuse, three of last year’s starters and four letter winners are not returning, taking away from the experience of the team and making backcourt play and strong leadership essential.

Watch out for the returning players, though, as they played great seasons last year and hope to continue the momentum this year. Junior Julie McBride begins this season after a standout performance as a sophomore guard, ranking fifth in scoring with 14.9 points per game, third in assists with 5.65 per game and seventh in steals with 1.97 per game. Junior Sharron Perry will also return after averaging 11.5 points per game and a team-high 6.6 rebounds per game.

Finally, Chineze Nwagbo, standing at 6-feet tall, returns after 16 games and averaging 8.4 points and 6.4 rebounds. Six-foot-4 senior forward Maja Omanovic looks to continue playing this year after 23 starts last season. With a solid core a freshman backing up these returners, the Orangewomen could post strong numbers.

– James McEvoy

Villanova After finishing the season with a total record of 20-11 and 12-4 in the Big East, Villanova tied for third in the conference and made it to the semifinals, losing handily to Connecticut. It also made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament, where the University of Oklahoma knocked out the team. The Wildcats have made the NCAA Tournament twice in a row and have displayed enough talent to make them competitive in the league.

Senior guard Trish Juhline leads the team heading into her fourth year. She leads the Wildcats with 13.6 points per game and is a dangerous outside shooter. Having fully recovered from a foot injury that sidelined her for part of last year’s season, she could stand out in the conference. The team will also rely on the skills of senior guard Katie Davis, who averaged 10.5 points last season and 3.8 rebounds per game. Senior forward Nicole Druckenmiller and junior forward Courtney Mix will add some height and power to the team. With an average of 6.9 rebounds per game, ix finished sixth in the conference. Six freshmen also appear on the roster, promising that Villanova will remain a threat in the Big East.

The team opens their season Nov. 22 at St. Joseph’s in a hometown battle. The team plays Georgetown, who they defeated 59-46 last year, on Feb. 19 at the Villanova Pavilion.

– Michael Grendell

Virginia Tech The women of Virginia Tech posted strong results last season, finishing 21-11 for the season and a 9-7 in the conference. They appeared in the postseason for the fifth consecutive time, charging all the way to the WNIT semifinals, where the University of Houston bounced them in overtime. Two starters, including junior forward Ieva Kublina of Latvia, who the conference named to the Preseason All-Big East team, will return to lead the team. Kublina also won the 2001-02 award for Most Improved Player in the Big East. She led the conference in scoring, averaging an impressive 17.5 points per game, and finished second in rebounds per game with 8.2. Junior center Erin Gibson will support Kublina down low. Gibson averaged 6.3 points per game and 4.6 rebounds. Senior guard Chrystal Starling will lead the backcourt. Last year she scored 11.4 points per game.

Head Coach Bonnie Henrickson has brought five freshmen onto the team, giving the Hokies a younger look. Junior center Brandy Fowler, who played two years in junior college, is a new player who comes with some experience and at 6 foot 1 can add height in the paint. Expect Virginia Tech to remain in the top half of the conference standings and possibly return to the postseason.

The Hokies defeated the Hoyas 71-64 last year; this year the two teams meet in Cassell Coliseum in Blacksburg, Va. on Feb. 12.

– Mike Grendell

West Virginia Although her brother Marc is garnering headlines as quarterback of the St. Louis Rams, West Virginia’s junior guard Kate Bulger has no reason to feel jealous. Bulger, who was named to the preseason All-Big East Second Team, was second in the conference with 15.4 points per game and has developed into one of the elite players in the Big East.

Bulger is one of the five returning starters from last year’s 14-14 team. It was West Virginia’s first non-losing season in five years, and new Head Coach Mike Carey aims to build on last season’s success and sneak up on the Big East.

Joining Bulger in the backcourt are junior Sherell Sowho and sophomore Yolanda Paige. Both averaged double digits in scoring, while Paige was among the Big East leaders in assists, averaging 5.46 a game.

Up front, senior forwards Mary Grace Carson and Eartha White will be key to West Virginia’s defensive efforts. White was fifth in the conference with seven rebounds per game.

A handful of transfers will push the seniors for playing time as the season progresses. Junior forward/center Ramika McGee, junior forward Michelle Carter, sophomore forward Liz Holbrook and sophomore forward Latitia Williams all provide proven insurance for the frontcourt.

West Virginia was picked by the Big East coaches to finish eighth in the conference, but the Mountaineers may be a surprise team. If the combination of the veteran starters and new reserves can provide an offensive spark, it will not be long before Kate Bulger starts making headlines for leading her own high-scoring team.

– Jon Shoup-Mendizabal

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.