Sunday, June 5, 2011

Off-Season Report: Griff Women Strong

Here's another in the series looking at MAAC programs.

Up now ...


2010-11 RESULT: 6-12 record in MAAC play, 11-19 overall.

2010-11 RECAP: The 6-12 league mark was good for 7th place, but the 11-19 overall ledger was the program's worse since a 9-19 finish in 2000-01. And, back-to-back losing seasons (12-19 overall in 2009-10) marked the first time the Golden Griffins have had successive under-.500 records since a seven-year stretch from 1995-96 through 2001-02. The good news here, though, is that the losing trend isn't likely to continue. If nothing else this past season was enjoyable in the sense that there was a large cast of young, promising players and the emphasis was heavily on player development that should pay off in coming years. Even with that in mind, a 7th-place finish, just a single game behind sixth-place finisher Iona, wasn't bad. Still, it dropped Canisius into the post-season tournament's play-in round where it knocked off proximitous rival Niagara. The Griffs beat the Purple Eagles three times overall in 2010-11, which is never a bad thing from the Canisius view of things. The Griffs were respectable in a 68-53 quarterfinal-round tournament loss to second-place finisher Loyola, a nice building block for coming seasons.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Primarily the development of one of the stronger freshmen classes the conference has seen in recent memory. It included 6-foot-4 centers Jamie Ruttle (8.9 points, 4.5 rebounds) and Jen Lennox (4.9, 3.7), 6-1 forward Courtney VandeBovenkamp (4.7, 4.5) and 5-9 guard Jen Morabito (8.1, 2.3, team-high 46 3's). All four earned the MAAC's Rookie of the Week award at least once during the past season, the first time in conference history that four players from a single program have won that award at least once. It most definitely bodes well for coming years. Senior Micayla Drysdale also had a nice senior season (9.0 points, 4.0 rebounds) and was a veteran presence/go-to player the program needed.

WHAT WENT WRONG: All that youth (Drysdale was the only senior contributor) ensured the record wouldn't be any better. The team probably maxed out in terms of results, and struggled against the conference's better teams going 1-9 against the top five finishers (beating only 4th-place Siena) and 5-3 against teams in the lower half of the standings. There really was no consistent "go-to" offensive player. Drysdale's 9.0 points made her the team's leading scorer. As good as the freshmen looked at times, there were other times when they all played like freshmen. Ashley Durham, who had a promising freshman season in 2009-10 didn't have the step-up sophomore season coach Terry Zeh had hoped for. Durham didn't quite perform as well as the team's point guard as the Griffs expected, starting just 13 games. But, she remains a talented player and seemed to be more comfortable filling the role Zeh wants for her late in the season.

WHAT'S AHEAD: Bright days, very bright ones. When ... make that "if" ... perennial league champion Marist ever slips a little, it looks like Canisius is next in line to step up. That might not happen this coming season, although the Griffs will almost assuredly make positive movement, but expect the program to be back in championship contention for 2012-13 and 2013-14 and, maybe, beyond that. Not only is everyone but Drysdale returning, but there's help coming in as well. Kayla Hoohuli, a 5-10 incoming freshman from St. Mary's High School in Pa., was named to the prestigious Parade Magazine All-America Team, and she might be the first MAAC player ever accorded that award. She averaged 28.4 points, 10.2 rebounds, 7.5 steals, 4.3 assists and 3.8 blocks per game as a high school senior. If she's as good as advertised she could be immediate contributor. Then, there's Steph McDonald (6.6 points, 5.2 rebounds), a redshirt sophomore this past season. All in all, Canisius looks well-stocked for several nice years ahead.

PREDICTION FOR 2011-12: Marist looks to be the conference's elite team for the coming season, but after that there's likely to be a scramble. It would be a surprise if Canisius finished lower than fourth or fifth this coming season.

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