Women’s Basketball Returns Every Player

By IMRAN GANDA

The women’s basketball team has high hopes for their new season that will tip-off in two days on Saturday, Nov. 18, when they will take part in the Emerson Tip-Off Classic. Expectations are high, especially because the Panthers return last year’s cohort that finished 17–8, good enough to earn a home game in the Nescac Tournament.

Perhaps the most impressive part of last season’s overall success is that the team did not have a senior on the roster. Now, with everyone from last year’s squad back, the addition of a pair of first-year guards, Kirsten Long ’21 and Emily Wander ’21, and the return of Eileen Daley ’18, the prospects for the 2017–18 edition of the Panthers are exciting.

“We’re going to be a much deeper team than we have been,” Krasco said. “I think this is the biggest it’s been since I’ve been here.”

The roster size, now at 15, is in fact Krasco’s deepest. It is probably the deepest team the Panthers have had in recent memory. This will have many advantages as the season progresses. For now though, fourth-year head coach K.J. Krasco is excited about the enthusiasm and promise her team has displayed in practice.

“We have no weak links and I firmly believe we have all the players to have a positive outcome,” Krasco said. She, along with the rest of the coaching staff, hope to strengthen the hunger and ambition of this year’s team.

Senior captain Rachel Collins ’18 and junior captain Catherine Harrison ’19 are determined to get the season off to a strong start. Since returning to campus in the fall, they have led offseason training by organizing pickup games and getting themselves and their teammates involved in lifting programs. This is just the tip of the iceberg of the behind-the-scenes steps the Panthers have taken to improve this offseason. The team feels that they collectively enter the season in peak physical condition, which has allowed Krasco to implement the team’s strategies on both ends of the floor, and to focus on perfecting fundamentals and technical aspects of the game.

“Our practices have definitely been more competitive,” Krasco said, hinting at how her team is ready to get the season underway.

Harrison will look to pick up where she left off last season in which she almost averaged a double-double with 9.6 points and 8.4 rebounds-per-game. Equally important to this season’s success will be the development of the team’s five sophomores Maya Davis ’20, Betsy Knox ’20, Kira Waldman ’20, Vanessa Young ’20 and Lily Kuntz ’20. They will be of vital assistance for Harrison as they will add depth in the four and five positions. The quintet of sophomores have high expectations and their coaches and teammates will be counting on them to contribute.

“We expect a lot out of them and I think they are going to prove themselves from the get go,” Coach Krasco said.

The Panthers hope to limit turnovers and to crash the boards harder despite their relative size disadvantage. Last season, most of their losses could be directly attributed to being out-played in the paint and to turnovers. No one is hiding from last season’s pitfalls though. The team and the coaching staff have taken all of this to task head-on in practice.

Krasco cited weaknesses in rebounding last season to a lack of experience on the roster. Without senior leadership and with five first-years, Middlebury faced a steep learning curve. Now, they are ready to come out firing on all cylinders and look forward to positioning themselves to compete on the glass and win more second-chance opportunities.

If it was not already apparent, practice has become a focal point in the offseason and it will continue to be so throughout the season. The team and coaching staff are looking to make the most out of every practice and to understand the mindset that the next game is more important than their last. Maintaining a game-to-game approach and an even keel is something the Panthers believe can help keep them mentally in check as the year progresses.

“We had a couple early slip-ups against teams I feel we should’ve competed better against,” Krasco said of last year’s campaign. “We want to focus on the process and understand we have to do the little things very well.”

The Panthers are excited and determined. While they are taking a game-to-game approach, they did admit that they are looking to make a deeper run in the conference tournament. Still, they do not want to get too far ahead of themselves with the understanding that each game plays a crucial part in the team’s ability to reach its goals.

The Panthers tip-off on Saturday at 1 p.m. against Emerson for their first of two games in the Emerson Tip-Off and will wrap up the weekend against Mt. St. Mary’s with a 1 p.m. Sunday tip. You can catch the Panthers in their first home action after Thanksgiving, when the Panthers take on Rensselaer on Wednesday, Nov. 29, at 6 p.m.

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Women’s Basketball Returns Every Player