Thursday, June 26, 2014

Team Report: Monmouth Women To Take Step Forward

Here's another in the "Team Report" series looking back at the 2013-14 season with a crystal ball look at what might be ahead. This is the last installment of the series.

Up now ...


2013-14 RECORD: 6-14 in MAAC play, 9th place; 8-25 overall.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: A lot more than the record indicated. The Hawks' youth almost ensured a slow start, which translated to a 1-12 early record. Some teams could have folded at that point, but Monmouth responded with  5-4 record over a mid-season stretch. Some minor injuries resulted in late limitations and an 8-game losing streak that was followed by a season-ending shellacking of Siena (80-57) and a first-round MAAC tournament victory over Niagara before the Hawks' season ended with a tournament loss to regular-season titlist Iona. Senior swingperson Chavannah Paalvast (13.2, 5.2 and a team-high 75 assists) was a do-everything performer who finished out a nice career. She was the team's only double-figure scorer, but there was plenty of depth. Twelve different players averaged at least 8.4 minutes per game and nine different players started at least four games. Freshman point guard Helena Kurt made the league's All-Rookie team and looked like one of the better emerging backcourt players in the conference. Head coach Jenny Palmateer did a masterful job of using an extended playing group and getting minutes for the right players not only to remain competitive through the season but to get experience for a large group of younger players. In all the team had five freshmen in the playing group and only one senior Paalvast, who averaged more than 4.7 points per contest. It also had the tallest front-line in the conference with a trio of 6-foot-4 post players in junior Sara English and freshmen Christina Mitchell and Sophie Beaudry. Another freshman, Mia Hopkins, provided long-range shooting off the bench.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Too much inexperience. It surely means better things are ahead, but that many freshmen in the playing group is never a good thing immediately except in developmental terms. Clearly it took tie for the youngsters to learn to play at the college level. The team really didn't have a go-to player. Paalvast was the leading scorer, but wasn't the prototypical big point producer. And there wasn't a defined second option. The next leading scorer was 5-7 junior Jasine Walker at 7.4 points per game. That so many players started games indicated that Palmateer was experimenting with playing groups. The 1-12 overall start ensured the Hawks wouldn't finish with a real good record, but there was never any loss of on-court intensity even after that tough beginning. And then, came an eight-game late-season losing streak fro which the team bounced back from once again with two straight victories before the tournament setback against Iona. As a team the Hawks struggled with ball control (590 turnovers against 371 assists).

WHAT'S AHEAD: A lot of good things. Expect Monmouth to be a very positive surprise in the upcoming season and for years to come. The team will still be relatively young (with Walker and English the only seniors), but a lot more experienced than this past season. Somehow Palmateer found ways to effectively use two of her 6-4 post players together late in the season and they all looked good. English had high rebound games of 16 and 14 during the season. Mitchell averaged 6.5 points and 5.8 rebounds in the final four contests while Beaudry averaged 5.8 points and 4.3 rebounds in the last four contests.  Kurt really came on late in the year and should help solve the turnover issues in future years. Hopkins and another nice freshman, Jenny Horvatinovic (4.3 points, 2.6 rebounds) should also step up next season. Paalvast's loss is a big one, but there's a good replacement coming in with NJIT transfer Sarah Olson, a 5-8 wing who sat out this past season as per transfer rules. She averaged 7.7 and 7.4 ppg. in two seasons at NJIT and should be among the Hawks' better scorers in the upcoming season.

REASONABLE EXPECTATION: Probably not experience in place yet for Monmouth to make a legitimate run at the top four or five spots in the standings, but certainly better than last year's ninth-place finish. Expect something like sixth or seventh place with even more signs that better things in future years.

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