Friday, June 10, 2011

Off-Season: Looking at Loyola Women

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

Up now....


2010-11 RECORD: 15-3 in MAAC play, 21-12 overall.

2010-11 RECAP: A spectacular season. The 15 conference victories accounted for the single-season's best by any Loyola basketball team, men or women. The only blemishes were the to-be-expected two to Marist and, surprisingly, one to Saint Peter's. The team, without a real inside player, thrived with its array of standout perimeter performers who really knew how to play. Plus, there was a nice early-season turnaround that came after an 0-5 start against non-league opponents. But that early schedule was difficult (including Pittsburgh, La Salle and West Virginia). Overall the Greyhounds were 3-7 during in-season non-conference play. But, they definitely benefitted from the experience. At one point they ran off nine straight victories against MAAC opponents, matching the program's all-time best winning streak. Of its 15 conference victories, six came by six points or fewer, a sign that the team just knew how to win games. And, then, in the conference's post-season tournament Loyola had a 3-point victory against followed by an overtime victory. That continued into national post-season play when Loyola earned a 67-65 win over Old Dominion in the first round of the WNIT.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: An extremely effective blending of strong perimeter talent helped mask any inside deficiencies the team had. It was more than that, though. Obviously coaching plays a role, and Joe Logan, through six seasons as head coach at the Baltimore school, has established himself as one of the conference's better program directors. Katie Sheahin, a 5-10 sopohomore guard who was pressed into point guard duty as a freshman due to a teammate's injury in 2009-10, blossomed at the position this past season and was arguably the best pure practitioner of the point guard spot in the league. One coached called her the biggest "game changer" in the league. Her 3-pointer with 3.1 seconds left lifted Loyola to its 2-point vvictory over ODU in the WNIT's first round. Mariam McKenzie, an athletic 5-10 swingperson, was a first-team all-MAAC player as a junior and Erica Clemente, a fifth-year senior, provided veteran leadership and was the htird scoring option while finishing her career with more than 1,100 points. The 15 conference victories was the program's all-time best and the 21 overall wins matched Loyola's single-season record. Health was also in Loyola's favor. All five starters made it through the season unscathed and all five either started all 33 games, or 32 of them. The Greyhounds advanced to the MAAC tournament's championship game and held a 14-5 lead early against Marist before the Red Foxes pulled away for a victory. Still, it was all good enough to earn the WNIT berth.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Very little. The only thing that could have made Loyola better was a legit post presence. But the Greyhounds got by well enough without one. The program got slighted, it says here, in the post-season award. Or, at least, Sheahin did. Somehow she averaged 12.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.1 assists, had 37 total blocked shots and finished second nationally in steals (3.7) and did not get picked, by league coaches, as a first-team all-MAAC selection. She did make second team, another indication that coaches traditionally favor upperclass performers in the all-star balloting and, surely, figured that with two years remaining Sheahin's time will come. She was, though, picked as the conference's Defensive Player of the Year. Team-wise Loyola ran into a very good ACC program in Virginia in the second round of the WNIT, losing 71-49.

WHAT'S AHEAD: Probably another strong season as McKenzie and Sheahin, two of the league's top four or five players and both legitimate contenders to be next season's Player of the Year in the MAAC, are back. So too will be 6-1 sophomore Alyssa Sutherland (6.2 points, 4.1 rebounds) who looked like she might develop into the post presence the team needs. Nneka Offadile, a 6-1 freshman who averaged 3.0 rebounds in 13.7 points per game but had a raw offensive game, is also likely to step up and be more of a contributor. The losses of of DiClemente and forward meredith Tolley (7.4 points, 5.5 rebounds) will hurt, but there's enough coming back to ensure more good days for the program.

PREDICTION FOR 2011-12: Apart from Marist, Loyola will be as good as anyone in the league. Expect the Greyhounds to finish second or third this coming season.

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