Here's another in the series previewing conference teams this season.
Up now ...
2012-13: 18-0 in the Northeast Conference, 30-3 overall.
KEY LOSS: Felicia Barron (13.4 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists).
NEW NEWCOMER: 6-1 freshman forward Morgan Manz.
EARLY STARTERS: 6-0 senior forward Brittany McQuain (11.2 points, 8.3 rebounds per game last season) 5-5 senior guard Ellen Cannon (4.1, 1.4), 5-6 junior guard Jasmine Martin (12.9, 3.4), 6-1 junior forward Samantha Guastella (8.1, 5.5), 5-9 junior guard Gillian Abshire (5.3, 1.7, .0 assists).
NOTABLE: Look out MAAC, here comes Quinnipiac. The Bobcats move up to join the MAAC after dominating the NEC a year ago in Marist-like fashion, finishing 18-0 in league play and 30-3 overall. Included was a trip to the NCAA's where they lost a first-round game against Maryland. A 2-3 record so far? Like her Marist counterpart (Brian Giorgis), Quinnipiac coach Tricia Fabbri embraces difficult non-conference schedules. The three losses have come against No. 3-ranked Louisville, high-major St. John's and three-time defending Ohio Valley Conference champion Tennessee-Martin. The wins came against a decent North Carolina A&T squad and against a very good American University team ... Barron, a do-everything guard, was the team's best player last season, but Quinnipiac has plenty returning to absorb the only loss of significance. The other four starters are back and, for the most part, have stepped up their respective production .... Abshire is not only averaging 12.0 points per game this season (just 5.3 last year), but is dishing out 6.8 assists per contest, including a school-record 14 vs. American ... Martin, is up to 16.0 ppg. after 12.9 last season. Guastella is up to 11.8 ppg. after 7.1 last season ... And, if all that scoring isn't enough, McQuain, slightly down from 11.2 last year to 10.8 this season, is already over 1,000 career points and ranks eighth on the school's career list. She's averaging 9.0 rebounds per contest this season ... Everything seems to be in place for another supertlative season, although an unbeaten record in the MAAC isn't likely. Still, not only are four starters back but the team probably has more depth than any MAAC team. That includes 6-2 senior forward Camryn Warner (7.4, 6.0), 6-0 junior Nikoine Ostergaard (7.0, 2.8), and sophomore guards Adily Martucci (3.2, 1.8) and Maria Napolitano (3.4, 1.6) ... Don't expect the Bobcats to enter league play with a glowing record, though. They still have toughies Missouri State, St. Joseph's, Hartford and UAlbany among upcoming non-conference opponents.
STRENGTHS: Where to begin? The team has sufficient height with two 6-footers in the starting lineup, and two more coming off the bench. The guard spot has two very good ones in Martin and Abshire, and three other effective backcourt players coming off the bench. There's certainly depth with nine players averaging at least 10 minutes per contest. At least four of the starters, right now, look to be among the top 15 or 20 players in the MAAC with a couple more not far behind.
WEAKNESSES: Try to find some. The team's top seven players are seniors and juniors, so there's more than enough experience. There's plenty of rebounding and a plethora of scorers. There's a terrific point guard. The team will be battle-toughened come MAAC play. The only weakness that's even remotely evident is an unfamiliarity with other league teams.
REASONABLE EXPECTATIONS: League coaches predicted Quinnipiac to finish third in the conference this season, behind Marist and an Iona team with every starter returning. But Quinnipiac is right there with the top two. It would not surprise this observer in the least were the Bobcats to strongly compete for the regular-season title all year and, maybe, become the first non-Marist team in 11 years to win the league championship. And, there's no end in sight. Three starters and a top reserve are juniors, so the team will be strong again a year from now.