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|LHU Cagers Ready to Rock and Roll|
|Thursday, 01 November 2012 10:53|
CentralPASportscenter.com Senior Writer
LOCK HAVEN -- When the 2012-13 collegiate basketball season rolls around, the Lock Haven University women’s and men’s teams will be facing similar situations, but for different reasons.
On the heels of a 9-16 campaign, the Lady Eagles will be looking for improvement on that mark, but if it happens, it will be with a lot of new faces in the lineup. As for the men, there is only one way to go and that is up as they hope to pick up that first win to snap a losing skid that currently stands at 44 games in a row.
After being quite optimistic entering the 2011-12 season with a solid core of seniors that fell short of expectations, Lady Eagle head coach Jennifer Smith has great expectations about her 2012-13 team.
“I think we definitely under-achieved last year,” said Smith. “But that said, I believe this year’s team is the best I have had in my six years here. If you look at people lost and returning stats, nobody would probably believe that, but what I have seen so far, we look much better than we did at this point last year.”
The Lady Eagles lost two top-drawer players in Peaches Nesmith and Sharay Hall, the duo combining for 25 points and a dozen rebounds a game last season. However, despite their departure, that doesn’t mean that the Lady Eagle cupboard is bare.
If you take a look at the LHU roster entering the season, you would only find one senior and one junior among the players returning with game experience. Of the thirteen players ready for action, eleven are either freshmen or sophomores with a transfer or two mixed in. LHU also welcomes the return of Emily Daugherty who missed all of last season due to injury as well as Samantha Lane (Montoursville/Loyalsock) who proved to be a big asset to the LHU program while coming off the bench as a freshman.
“Kacie (Hershey) is our only senior and Kelsey (Ryan) is our only junior,” said Smith. “Everyone else is basically a freshman or sophomore. We are young, but I don’t know if that is a bad thing. Our youth gives us a fresh feel this year and that is good.”
With the absence of Hall and Nesmith which means the absence of a lot of points and rebounds, Hershey will be counted on to pick up her game on the floor as well as provide leadership for the younger players.
“Being the only senior on the team, there are a lot of leadership responsibilities that come with that situation,” Hershey said. “With the loss of five seniors, a lot of leadership has left, but a lot of the younger players with experience have also stepped up and helped with those responsibilities.” With a lot of points and rebounds missing with the departure of the five seniors, Hershey was quick to point out that she will have to step her game up to help fill that void.
“I feel that I have to step it up on both ends of the floor,” she said. “Last year, I didn’t have the best season statistically and with Peaches and Sharay gone, some of the responsibility to fill that void falls on me. Defense has been one of the stronger points of my game so I am spending a lot of time working on offense.”
Although Smith and assistant Zack Smith might have some chemistry on the floor to deal with, the Smith’s like what they have seen thus far from their athletes in pre-season workouts.
“So far I feel we are more advanced than we have ever been as far as our offensive and defensive plays are concerned,” Jen said. “The girls are communicating with each other on the floor very well and we haven’t had that at this point in a season before.”
As for the transfers, those would be twin sisters Syvae and Rachael McDaniel from California (PA) along with Marrysa Moyer from Mansfield.
“Picking up Marrysa was big for us,” said Smith. “She played through a lot of injuries last year or her numbers (6.6 rpg and 6.5 ppg) would have even been better than they were. She was a great pickup for us and she fit right in. Except for the point, she can play any place on the court for us. Then you have the (McDaniel) twins who were at Cal last year, and although they have been out of basketball for a year, they have been working really hard and have made huge strides since we have started workouts.”
Daugherty had a sensational freshman season in 2010-11 and was second on the team in scoring and shot 40% from the field, while Lane averaged six points and 17 minutes in her role off the bench. As for participating in her redshirt season one year ago, Daugherty says there was a lot of learning that took place for her.
“Tearing my ACL last year and having to watch from the bench was difficult for me,” said Daugherty. “It was kind of a big jab to my heart because I hated to sit there and watch our team struggle when maybe they could have done so much more. Even though I couldn’t play, I tried to be the biggest supporter they had on the sidelines.”
After going down with the injury in November, Daugherty said it was just a matter of rehabbing to make sure she was ready to get back on the floor.
“I started with rehab as soon as I got out of surgery and continued with it through the whole school year,” she said. “Even during the summer, I was in the gym for three hours a day, working and pushing myself to be ready to come back. So far this year, things feel good and I am ready to go.”
As a starter for most of her high school career, Lane was relegated to the role of coming off the bench as a catalyst, and she enjoyed the responsibility.
“Everyone wants to start, obviously, but when I came off the bench, I felt like I could get everyone excited and get them going,” Lane said. “In a way, it (off the bench) was a good thing and it also got me more playing time. All I want to do is play as hard and as much as I can.”
Having one year of experience under her belt, Lane also likes what she sees when she is on the floor with her teammates.
“I definitely think that we have lot of chemistry this year,” she said. “We all have each others back and although we are pretty much a new team, we already know how each other works and what they can do.”
Edinboro is the choice for the top spot in the PSAC-West, followed by Gannon, IUP and California. LHU was picked seventh. In the Eastern Division, Bloomsburg received seven first-place votes and has been picked to win the conference title.
One year ago under first-year head coach Mike Nestor, the Bald Eagles came close to cracking the win column. But in the end, they just couldn’t turn the corner.
“Obviously we got the job late and didn’t have much time to recruit,” saidNestor. “The guys we brought in plus the guys who were here, to see them work that hard through the whole year is remarkable. I have never been through a season like that and let’s face it, at any point, the guys could have said I am done with this, but you know, they didn’t. When you are getting beat up on a regular basis, it takes a lot of character to come in every single day and just keep competing. I think what they did in the last week against IUP and Mercyhurst showed what these guys were all about. This year we brought in some guys who I hope can help those who were here before continue that trend.”
With a number of familiar faces back to be joined by a group of newcomers, Nestor is hoping to pick up a win early in the campaign that will hopefully snap a 44-game losing skid and propel his Bald Eagles to bigger and better things on the hardwood.
“We start off by playing in the Shippensburg Classic and we play two solidteams, but I am looking forward to it because I feel that we can compete with thoseguys” said Nestor. “I am looking forward to opening up (the season) and getting awin early and I think that can happen in our first game which is against SalemInternational. I think we have the tools to do it, but I think we have to work a littleharder on a regular basis to get it done. We show spurts where we are working ashard as we can, and then we have a little bit of a letdown. I feel real confident thatwe are going to get some wins this year, no question about it.”
The Bald Eagles return six players from last year’s squad, including four of their top five scorers and will be led by seniors Armandi Marshall (Philadelphia, Olney East) and Andre Rivers (Philadelphia, Girard College). One year ago, Marshall put together a career season and he is looking forward to continuing to improve, not only as an all-around player, but as a team leader as well.
“I feel now that this is my senior year that I am prepared to play anywhere on the floor at any given time,” said Marshall. “I have been at multiple positions. I came in here as a ‘3’ played the ‘4’ my sophomore year and played the ‘5’ as well the last two years. I can face up, I have a mid-range I can go to and if necessary I can drive.”
Winding down his career as a Bald Eagle cager, Marshall feels that this team is ready to do some good things.
“I feel that this is the best team we had since I came here,” he said. “We all complement each other, we have good team chemistry and basically, we do just about everything together whether it is on the floor, going out to eat or whatever the case may be.”
As for adjustments Marshall had to make, putting his finger on that answer was easy for him to do.
“There is a big difference between playing street ball and playing in a system,” he said. “In street ball, nobody plays defense, but in a system, you have to if you are going to be successful.”
As for Rivers, his biggest asset is that he can play all three frontcourt positions equally well. “I think my being able to play all three spots up front is a positive for me because that means I can help the team in a lot of different ways instead of being one dimensional,” he said. “If you need me to rebound, I can rebound, if you need me to score, I can score and if you need me to distribute I can do that too. I really feel like I can help our team in a lot of different ways and there are a lot of players in this conference who can’t say that.”
Able to score and rebound with the best of them, Rivers feels there is one other area in which he can work hard to improve, and that is cut down on his turnovers.
“I think I definitely have to cut down on my turnovers and I have to make a lot more free throws than I have in the past,” Rivers said. “I struggled at the line last season, but for me, it was more of a confidence thing than anything else.”
As a senior, Rivers will also be counted on to provide leadership to his teammates, both on and off the floor.
“I am really not much of a vocal guy, sort of laid back,” Rivers said. “By me showing what I can do both on and off the court is the way I can provide leadership. I am trying to be more vocal with the younger guys, but if I can show them how to do the right things, hopefully they’ll be able to pick up on it.”
In the pre-season team rankings, IUP and Slippery Rock each received three first-place votes as the team to beat for conference honors. Gannon and Edinboro, who each received one first-place vote, sit in third and fourth spots while the Bald Eagles were picked eighth.
In the PSAC-East, defending PSAC Champions East Stroudsburg claimed seven first-place votes and sits alone atop the Eastern Division. West Chester garnered the last vote and is second, the Golden Rams followed by Bloomsburg and Kutztown to round out the top four in the East.
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