Saturday, September 7, 2013

Team Report: Monmouth Women Might Struggle Early

Here's the final team report, looking back and ahead at conference teams. This one is about one of the conference's newcomers, and your Hoopscribe will admit up front to not having seen the teams at either Quinnipiac and Monmouth in person. These reports are based on research and interviews with coaches and/or school publicists.

Up now ...


2012-13 RECORD: 12-6 in the Northeast Conference (3rd place), 15-15 overall.

2012-13 RECAP: A 3-9 record in non-league play, but against difficult competition including No. 4-ranked Duke. One of the victories came over Manhattan of the MAAC by a lopsided 58-43 margin. The Hawks were fairly up and down until a four-game winning streak in early February. After that, though, came back-to-back losses to unbeaten Quinnipiac and, then, St. Francis. And, then, Monmouth finished strong with three final regular-season victories. Its season ended with a toss-up game loss to Mount St. Mary', 59-57, in overtime. In that one the Hawks scored the final three points of regulation to send the contest into the extra session and held a two-point lead with two minutes remaining, but didn't get off a shot while committing three turnovers after that as the Mount earned the victory.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: The team was picked to finish third in the league's preseason poll, and that's where it finished thanks to its season-ending three-game winning streak. Somehow it succeeded despite one of the smallest lineups in the league. The starting five included one player that measured 6-foot-0, one at 5-10 and three at 5-7. Despite being height challenged, the Hawks held their own in rebounding statistics. As a team Monmouth ranked 53rd nationally in 3-point shooting percentage, and senior guard Alysha Womack connected on 56-of-127 shots from beyond the bonus stripe, a 44.1 accuracy rate that would have been fifth-best nationally had she qualified (she needed four more made shots to qualify for the national leader board). Womack averaged 14.2 points for a nice senior season and she and teammate Abby Martin both finished with more than 1,000 career points. The team also had quality depth, going eight or nine deep on most nights. One of its reserves, 6-4 center Sara English, averaged 1.45 blocks per game, which was 103rd best nationally, despite playing an average of just 13.8 minutes per contest.

WHAT WENT WRONG: The height situation was an issue, mostly against better opponents. The loss to Mount St. Mary's in the NEC tournament's first game brought an abrupt end to the season and came just six days after Monmouth had beaten The Mount, 71-63, in the regular-season's final contest. Monmouth lost some quality depth when senior reserve forward Shira Schecht (3.0 points per game) suffered a season-ending injury in the team's 16th game.

WHAT'S AHEAD: Good things, eventually. Monmouth will go from being very small to very big this coming season. Not only is the 6-4 English, a junior who started her career at UMass, coming back and likely to play a more-significant role, but two other 6-4 players are joining the program. Those are Sophie Beaudry, who averaged 8.5 points and 5.0 rebounds per game at College Dawson in the Montreal area (coincidentally, the school that produced Siena men's standout Prosper Karangwa), and Christina Mitchell, who averaged 12/10 at Mathis H.S. in Baltimore.More height comes from 6-2 Danica Dragicevic, a sophomore who was a lightly-used reserve last season. And, there's also athletic freshman forward 6-0 India Dotson, who attended Monmouth last season after graduating from high school a year early. She sat out last season as a redshirt. The program also did considerable recruiting work outside the U.S., bringing in Beaudry from Canada, and point guard Helena Kurt from Sweden (she was on that country's U20 national team) to join returning seniors Chevannah Paalvest (New Zealand), Shecht (from Isreal) and Dragicevic (from Serbia). The bad news is that four of last season's starting five and five of the top seven scorers all graduated. But, top returnee Paalvest (11.0, 4.9 last season) is a good one, a potential all-MAAC type player, and English should literally play a big role this coming season. But, a lot of players need to step into bigger roles, and a lot of youngsters will play big minutes, usually not a recipe for success. Then, there are the huge holes at the guard spots left by the graduates. Likley candidates to take the reigns at the point are returning back-up Kasey Chambers and incoming freshman Kurt. Another touted newcomer is incoming freshman guard Mia Hopkings (Pittstown, Pa., H.S.), a 5-10 backcourter who averaged 20.3 points and 14 rebounds per game as a high school senior.

PREDICTION FOR 2013-14: Not only will the Hawks be making the transition to a new, and better, league but they'll be doing it after significant graduation losses. There appears to be a good group of players joining the program, but it will likely take at least a year for all the youngsters to mature and mesh. The likelihood is that Monmouth won't be a .500 team this season and will finish in one of the bottom three spots in the 11-team's standings. But, better days will come after that.

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