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Women’s basketball team looks to rebuild

By : David O'Brian

Last season, the Binghamton women’s basketball team had its most accomplished senior class in five seasons. Jen Blues, Jen Haubrich and Rachel Laws concluded their careers with more than 3,000 points and six combined all-conference selections. They also led Binghamton to its first appearance in the America East Conference semifinals.

That trio’s departure leaves head coach Rich Conover and the Bearcats with a daunting task.

“We lost three seniors who were fixtures in our program and now we need to find new leaders to replace them,” Conover said. “But we do have the experience and the talent to make a smooth transition this time around.”

Guards One vital leader returning from last season’s team is senior point guard Shea Kenny. After transferring from St. Louis following the 2003-04 season, she sat out a year in accordance with NCAA rules. Last year, she was among the America East leaders in assists per game (2.79) and three-point field goal percentage (.390). She also solidified a position that the Bearcats had troubles with the previous season.

“To have Shea back is invaluable,” Conover said. “It is comforting to know that we have her as a leader. She knows the flow of the game, when to shoot the ball and when to pass it off.”

While Kenny is wrapping up her college career, freshman Muffy Sadler arrives following an impressive high school career. She started for the Iowa Select Team, the most elite AAU program in the state.

“She is a very good shooter,” Conover said. “This year, she has the luxury of learning from two seniors.”

The Bearcats will look to senior Rebecka Lindgren and freshman Erica Carter to fill the shooting guard position. Lindgren has seen extensive playing time as both point and shooting guard. Carter helped lead her Illinois high school squad to two state titles, two sectional championships and four regional crowns.

At the wing position, junior Laura Sario is the top returnee. Two years ago, she was a full-time starter at shooting guard and was named to the America East All-Rookie Team. Last season, when Laws missed 10 games with an injury, Sario stepped in and averaged a team-best 12.1 points per game.

“This is an important year for Laura,” Conover said. “We are going to be asking a lot of her as a player and as a leader.”

Freshman Darryll Peterson is a versatile player who can play the wing guard or forward position. She is a two-time All-Baltimore City and All-Metro player.

“Darryll has the chance to develop into a very good college player,” Conover said. “She brings great size and athleticism to the wing position.”

Seeking to return from a season-ending ACL injury is redshirt freshman Lauren Regan.

Forward Despite Haubrich’s departure, Conover feels that this is his squad’s deepest position. Juniors Brianna Thompson and Juta Jahilo and sophomore Laura Franceski all had significant contributions last year and look to improve this year.

“The forward spot is potentially our strongest position,” Conover said. “The starting position is up for grabs but between our three players, we should have some big numbers coming from there.”

Thompson took a medical redshirt two seasons ago but bounced back last year.

“She has had some nagging injuries,” Conover said, “but when she has been healthy, she has shot the ball well from the perimeter.”

Jahilo started six games last season, including three when Haubrich was injured. She posted a pair of double-doubles. Franceski held her own last year and developed into one of the squad’s top shot blockers. Playing in a reserve role, she led the team with 26 blocks.

Center While the starting forward position is up in the air, there is little doubt who will start as center. Junior Laine Kurpniece led the Bearcats in scoring (12.3 ppg.) and rebounding (6.6 rpg.) last year. She was named the America East Conference Player of the Week three times and earned second-team all-conference honors.

“Laine really developed into one of our top players her sophomore year,” Conover said. “She was very consistent and got to the free throw line a lot. She understands that she is one of our marquee players and will be the focus of our opponents’ defense.”

Sophomore Erin Owens enters the year as the backup center. With a year of experience, Conover sees Owens taking a more significant role this year.

Game schedule Binghamton has a non-conference schedule stacked with formidable opponents.

The Bearcats open at home on Nov. 14 against a Sacred Heart squad that advanced to the NCAA Tournament.

Two first-time opponents, Liberty (Nov. 25) and Villanova (Dec. 10), will visit the Events Center and Syracuse will come to Binghamton on Dec. 30.

Hartford is still the squad to beat in the America East Conference.

The conference schedule includes home and away games against all eight other America East teams.

The Bearcats will also play host to the America East Conference Tournament in March.

“We are happy to have the America East Tournament at home this year,” Conover said. “We have been very tough on our home floor the past two seasons (18-8), so it is a great advantage for us.”
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Last Updated: 10/14/08