Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Manhattan Women's Report: Rebuilding Ahead

Here's another in the series looking back and ahead at conference programs.

Up now ...


2011-12 RECORD: 10-8 in MAAC play, 18-16 overall.

2011-12 RECAP: The program suffered just one significant loss from the 2010-11 team that won 24 games, but it was a significant one in point guard Abby Wentworth. The Jaspers spent much of the season trying to find a semi-adequate replacement, ultimately using five different players at the position. The best seemed to be sophomore Allison Skrec, who cracked the starting lineup at the midway point of the season and, then, suffered a broken collarbone in early February and didn't return. It left the position to senior Alyssa Herrington, previously a shooting specialist, who handled it well enough for the team to have a 7-5 record with her at the position. As the team was trying to find its way early it stumbled out to a 2-6 start before going 16-10 after that. It was enough to get the No. 3 seed heading into the MAAC tournament where it stumbled in a 34-33 quarterfinal-round loss to Siena in the lowest-scoring post-season event game in league history. In that one, Siena had a 34-21 lead with 8:40 remaining  and didn't score another point. Manhattan got back to within one with 1:40 remaining and, then, managed just one more shot, a long three-pointer with nine seconds left. Siena won the battle for the rebound and held on. Still, a 16-15 record at that point earned the Jaspers a second-straight bid to the WBI, where it won two tournament games for the second straight year. The season finally ended with a 67-54 loss to Minnesota.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Senior forward Lindsey Loutsenhiser became a do-everything performer (12.3 points, 6.0 rebounds). She led Manhattan in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals and was the MAAC's only player to lead her team in all four of those categories. Another senior forward, Schyanne Halfkenny might have been the MAAC's most-improved player. After barely playing in her first two years and only averaging 3.2 points and 2.1 rebounds as a junior she broke out to average 11.1, 4.7 as a senior and saved some of her best for the end. She had a career-high 25 points in a WBI tournament victory over Holy Cross. Sophomore guard Monica Roeder had a 35-point break-out game against East Tennessee State in a preseason NIT contest. Nadia Peters, a senior, was a solid inside player and had 35 blocks. Skrec looked good in her limited time as a starter, and Herrington did a nice job as a late-season find at the point. The team did a lot of little things well. It ranked sixth nationally in fewest fouls per game (12.7), 14th in steals (12.1), 19th in turnover margin (4.85 fewer turnovers per game than opponents) and 24th nationally in points allowed (54.0). The team also claimed the conference's only regular-season victory over 17-1 Marist, a 48-44 decision on Feb. 14.

WHAT WENT WRONG: For one, not enough height. Manhattan somehow finished over .500 despite averaging 5.6 fewer rebounds per game than opponents. It didn't have a consistent go-to player on the offensive end.. Roeder looked like she might be it after her early season 35-pointer, but only averaged 8.7 ppg in the other 33 games she played. The point guard situation, though, was the biggest problem. No team does well without at least a solid player at the point and Manhattan spent much of the early season trying to find someone to fit that role.Not long after settling on Skrec, she went out with the broken collarbone in the season's 22nd game and never returned. The biggest disappointment had to be the quarterfinal-round MAAC tournament loss to Siena. Still, Manhattan got a national post-season invite and did well, winning its first two games.

WHAT'S AHEAD: With Skrec back at full strength and this past season's experience as a foundation, she should solve the Jasper's point-guard situation. But, now, the questions concern who plays around her? Three of the top four scorers (Loutsenhiser, Halfkenny and Peters) are gone, as is Herrington (the team's sixth-leading scorer). Roeder, primarily a long-range shooter right now, will have to become more consistent and provide more than just shooting. A 5-11 junior Toni-Ann Lawrence (5.4, 3.5) will need to make a Halfkenny-like improvement. Ashley Stec, a 6-0 freshman forward and the younger sister of former Siena standout Heather Stec, flashed some signs that she could contribute in the coming season. Otherwise, Manhattan will need to rely a lot on freshmen with five coming in including 6-2 Briana Schnare the tallest. And while the incoming freshman class looks to have some nice talent, first-year players usually need time to get acclimated to the college level. The team should be fun to watch develop in the coming season.

PREDICTION FOR 2012-13: Most of the conference's teams have considerably more returning talent than manhattan. It's probably unreasonable to expect it to match even this past season's record, although head coach John Olenowski always seems to find a way to overcome deficiencies to keep his team competitive. The likelihood is that Manhattan will be competitive but might struggle to finish in the upper half of the league standings.

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