Women’s basketball preview: Sherae Swinson, senior guards lead team
November 5, 2013Tweet
Coming off a difficult 6-24 season, the Binghamton women’s basketball team is gearing up for a year of improvement. An experienced backcourt and a pair of all-conference returnees up front form the nucleus of this year’s squad. Beyond that, however, is a balanced group whose chemistry has been a plus so far this preseason.
“I like the overall attitude and chemistry of our team right now,” head coach Nicole Scholl said. “We have a good balance of experience and youth and a hunger to have a winning season. Depth-wise, we are still piecing things together, but it is a good group and they have been working hard. Our returners gained valuable experience last year and played in a number of close games. We are definitely further along than we were last season at this point.”
Two areas that will go a long way in determining Binghamton’s fortunes this season are how it starts the season and how well it plays in the friendly confines of the Events Center. Last year, the Bearcats managed only a single win in non-conference play and just two victories at home.
“I think the big thing for this team is how well we start this year,” Scholl said. “Last year, we got off to a very slow start. I think that mentality needs to change for this group. The players have also expressed to us about taking more pride on our home floor. This should be our place to play and we want to establish home court advantage.”
Junior Sherae Swinson led the Bearcats in scoring last season (9.9 points per game) and was named third-team all-conference. She reached double figures in scoring a team-best 15 times, including a pair of games with at least 20 points.
“Sherae really established herself as an offensive threat for our team last year,” Scholl said. “We are going to rely on her again this year for her scoring as well as challenging her to establish herself as a top defender and rebounder in our conference.”
Sophomore Morgan Murphy missed six games with an injury last year but was still named to the America East All-Rookie Team. She averaged 7.0 points per game, reached double figures in scoring six times and led the team in scoring five times.
“Morgan had a great start last year and gained a lot of experience,” Scholl said. “With her drive and support around her she has the potential to be an all-conference player this year.”
Kara Elofson and Simone Thomas graduated last year. Looking to fill in the gap of experience are returning seniors Julia Barac and Kyra Aloizos, along with sophomore Jessa Molina. Freshman Kristin Ross, who earned all-state honors, hails from Gorham (Maine) High School.
“There are definitely some gaps to fill with Kara and Simone graduating,” Scholl said. “Kyra, Julia, Jessa and Kristin will have a chance to fill those spots.”
Seniors Stephanie Jensen and Vaneeshia Paulk return this season to lead the Bearcats in the backcourt. Both of them started last season after being reserves the previous year. Jensen led the team with 37 three-point field goals while Paulk reached double figures in scoring six times.
“Vaneeshia and Stephanie, who were named as captains for this season, will lead the way with our back court this year,” Scholl said. “Stephanie is a tremendous passer and great three-point threat while Vaneeshia can break defenses down with her dribble and has improved on her outside shooting.”
Two sophomores who should see increased roles in the backcourt this season are Kim Albrecht and Kandace Newry. Albrecht started a pair of games last year and led Binghamton by shooting 82 percent from the free throw line. Newry had one start last season.
Junior Gintare Surdokaite also returns in the backcourt while freshman Kylie Libby arrives from Cheverus High School in Portland, Maine.
“Kim and Kandace gained experience last year and will be asked to take on a greater role this year scoring and defending,” Scholl said. “Gintare and Kylie will provide some added outside shooting.”
Binghamton tips off its season against Buffalo at the Events Center on Nov. 8. Other non-conference home games come against Canisius (Nov. 19), St. Bonaventure (Dec. 7) and Princeton (Dec. 11). On the road, opponents include Bucknell (Nov. 14), Niagara (Nov. 23), Cornell (Dec. 4), Rider (Dec. 14) and Siena (Dec. 21).
The highlight of non-conference play, however, is a trip to the New Mexico Tournament on Nov. 29-30. Also taking part in that event are Southeast Missouri and Arkansas.
“Our non conference schedule will again be challenging, but it’s designed that way to help prepare us for conference play, “Scholl said. “Early wins are going to be important for us and give us confidence going into the conference season.”
As for the America East Conference, Albany is the two time defending champion while Hartford advanced to the final last season and won the 2011 crown. All five of last season’s all-conference first team, however, have either graduated or left the conference (Boston University is now in the Patriot League). That opens the gate for new leaders to emerge.
Binghamton begins its conference schedule on Jan. 4 at UMBC. Following the 16-game slate, the America East Tournament will return to Albany, starting March 7.
“Our league graduated a wealth of talent last year,” Scholl said. “It will be interesting to see who will establish themselves as the favorite, but as we have seen in the past come tournament time any team can win.”