Here's another in the series previewing MAAC teams. Up now ...
2009-10 RECORD: 10-8 in MAAC play, 15-15 overall.
2010-11 COACHES' PREDICTION: Picked for fifth in the preseason poll of conference coaches.
KEY RETURNEES: 6-0 junior forward Lindse Loutsenhiser (15.3 points, 6.5 rebounds), 6-1 junior forward Nadia Peters (7.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.6 blocks), 5-8 junior guard Alyssa Harrington (11.1 points, 2.8 rebounds), 5-9 senior guard Abby Wentworth (9.4 points, 4.6 rebounds).
KEY LOSS: Guard Michelle Pacheco (15.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, 5.0 points).
NOTES: Only one loss, but it was a big one in do-everything point guard Pacheco, who led the conference in assists last season. She also helped direct one of the best offenses at taking care of the ball. The Jaspers' average of plus 3.4 turnovers per game was the best in the MAAC. It had 100 fewer turnovers than opponents on the season, and all those extra possessions paid off as it averaged 62.3 points per game, third best in the MAAC. It might have been even better had the team been able to rebound better. Its 32.9 rebound-per-game average was last in the MAAC, and opponents averaged six rebounds per game more than Manhattan.
The rebounding dilemma will only change through more of a dedication to that aspect of the game since there doesn't appear to be any new help on the boards coming in. Junior forwards Nadia Peters and Lindsey Loutsenhiser are the team's top two returning rebounders. Loutsenhiser, the team leader at 6.5 boards per game, also averaged 15.3 points per outing, third best in the MAAC last season, and established herself as one of the best individual performers in the league.
The Jaspers' 63-34 season-opening victory over St. Francis of New York also gave signs that there might be a replacement for Pacheco, and that the offense could be even better than a year ago. Senior guard Abby Wentworth had five assists against just turnovers against St. Francis. And freshman 6-0 swingperson Monica Roeder had a game-high 20 points, mostly on hitting 6-of-7 from 3-point territory.
Also returning is 5-8 junior guard Alyssa Harrington, who played 16 games last year before a season-ending injury. But Harrington had 37 three-pointers before her injury and was leading the MAAC in that statistic at that point in the season. There are also some solid returning role players from a year ago, most noteably 5-11 junior forward Schyanne Halfkenny and 5-10 sophomore guard Maggie Blair.
HOW MANHATTAN WILL SUCCEED: If Loutsenhiser gets even a little better, she is one of the top three or four players in the MAAC and gives her team the requisite standout it needs to be a legitimate contender. If Wentworth makes a smooth transition to the point, and there's no reason to believe she won't, that's a big help, too. Between Roeder and a return to health for Harrington ... there's plenty of perimeter firepower in place. In fact, it's all here except one thing: a real inside presence. If Manhattan had that piece, it would be on the verge of contending for a league title. It makes Peters and Loutsenhiser's board work all the more important this season. If Manhattan gets outrebounded by a six-per game average again this year, there won't be much improvement.
COACH'S COMMENTS: "Lindsey Loutsenhiser is a great scorer and, now, we need her to work harder on rebounding and defense," said coach Joe Olenowski. "But we expect a big season out of her. We have high expecations for our team this year. We've got real leaders in Abby Wentworth and Nadia Peters. I think our program is on the right track but we still have a lot of work to do."
PREDICTION: It's hard to find a good rebounder, and there doesn't seem to be one in place here, so the expectation is that the Jaspers will struggle to cut into last season's rebounding disadvantage. Still, though, everything else is in place. Even a little greater attention to the boards could bring about two or three more victories. Expect Manhattan to finish in the upper half of the league standings, maybe even as high as third, but not to seriously contend for a league title this season.