Women’s Basketball Preview: Bobcats remain hopeful
LEWISTON, Maine — Ouch!
Junior point guard Sarah Barton was selected a preseason Fourth Team All-America player by D3Hoops.com.
Meg Coffin had to be in agony when she blew out her knee in a late-season soccer game at Middlebury in October, but the pain was felt throughout the Bates College athletics community. Coffin’s injury meant the 2006-07 women’s basketball team at Bates suddenly had no All-America center, no NESCAC Player of the Year returning to lead the way.
Coffin led the Bobcats in scoring (17.1), rebounding (11.0), blocked shots (1.6 bpg) and steals (2.3 spg), and was at the top or near the top of the NESCAC in all of those categories. Coffin also set a new school record for field goal percentage, at .592, leading Bates to a 19-9 record.
The Bobcats had some successes to be proud of last season, making their second straight appearance in the NCAA Division III Women’s Basketball Championship, and earning the top seed in the NESCAC Championship with an 8-1 record. But if Bates is to earn another bid to the NCAAs, they’ll have to take another approach than using Coffin as their centerpiece.
“Obviously Meg is going to be missed a great deal,” said head coach Jim Murphy. “She’s a great player, but even more than that we’ll miss her way of communicating with teammates on the floor, and her toughness. We drew eight charges as a team last season, and Meg drew seven of them.”
Fortunately, there appears to be a lot of talent left for Bates, even after taking Coffin out of the equation.
That starts with 5-9 junior point guard Sarah Barton (Portsmouth, N.H.), who was a preseason Fourth Team All-America selection by D3Hoops.com. First and foremost, Barton brings an uncommon playmaker’s sense to the floor. She accumulated 199 assists last season, a Bates record. Her average of 7.1 assists per game was third in the nation and nearly double that of any other player in the NESCAC. Barton also led the conference in 3-point shooting percentage, at .419 (which has prompted Murphy to encourage her to shoot more often) and ranked third on the team in rebounding (4.6 rpg), second in steals (51) and fourth in scoring (8.1 ppg). Barton and Coffin both were named to the D3Hoops.com All-Northeast Region First Team.
|Matia Kostakis (23) was the Bobcats’ second-leading scorer and rebounder a year ago, but will be counted on even more this season with the unexpected absence of Meg Coffin (21).|
Bates also boasts 6-0 forward Matia Kostakis (Andover, Mass.), who was an All-NESCAC Second Team pick last season. Kostakis, who was Co-Rookie of the Year in 2004-05 along with Barton, ranked in the top 10 in the conference last season in scoring (12.6 ppg), rebounding (7.2 rpg) and free throw percentage (.797). As a first-year player at Amherst, Kostakis averaged 9.8 rebounds per game, so with Coffin out of the lineup she may take on more responsibility for boardwork.
Three returning veterans will see plenty of playing time, starting with team captain Katie Franklin (New Preston, Conn.), a 5-8 forward, whom Murphy reports has played as well as anyone in preseason practices. Sophomore forward Val Beckwith (Woburn, Mass.) made an immediate impact as a first-year player, averaging 8.0 points and 3.4 rebounds in 20.3 minutes per game, while shooting an efficient .457 from the floor. Beckwith was named to the All-State Rookie Team last year by the Maine Women’s Basketball Coaches Association. And senior Maggie Fitzgerald (Wethersfield, Conn.) is a valuable backcourt complement, with the ability to play the point, play solid defense and shoot the three.
Sophomore forward ShawnRose Lanchantin (Natick, Mass.) didn’t get to play much last season, but has improved her way into significantly more court time this season.
Eight newcomers dot the Bates roster, including seven first-year players and junior guard Danielle Gagnon (Gorham, Maine).
At least four first-years figure to see significant minutes, including athletic 5-10 guard Kellie Goodridge (Merrimack, N.H.), a tough defender who is likely to start in the Bobcats’ season opener. Forward Teal Carroll (Norwich, Vt.) is a heady player and a sharpshooter. Danielle Schaefers (Providence, R.I.) is a strong and physical player standing 6-0, who has given Kostakis plenty to contend with on the boards in practice. And 6-0 forward Lauren Yanofsky (Belmont, Mass.) is perhaps the team’s best athlete.
Rounding out the roster are Emma and Klara Bystrom, twin 5-6 guards from Sundsvall, Sweden, and 6-1 center Liz Casline (Delmar, N.Y.).
Bates opens its season Saturday, Nov. 18, at the Babson/Irving Oil Invitational at Babson College. The Bobcats will face SUNY Geneseo to begin with Saturday night at 7:30, then will play either Babson or Colby on Sunday afternoon. A date with national runner-up Southern Maine looms on Tuesday, Nov. 21, in the Bobcats’ home opener.
Murphy is clear about what he’d like to see from his team in the early going. Hard work and intensity, of course, as well as good communication and pushing the tempo at every opportunity. The Bobcats won’t be the team they thought they would be, but they can still have the season they wanted.