Women’s basketball preview: Change is in store for 2008-09
|Thousand-point scorer Val Beckwith ’09 becomes the clear go-to player on the new-look Bobcats.|
LEWISTON, Maine — With the graduation of Sarah Barton, Meg Coffin and Matia Kostakis, the Bates College women’s basketball team lost a pair of 1,000-point-plus scorers (in Coffin and Kostakis), a two-time All-America center (Coffin) and one of the top 10 playmakers in Division III women’s basketball history (Barton). The three of them accounted for 30.5 points, 19.9 rebounds, 11.8 assists and 4.7 steals per game combined last year — a lot of production for any team to replace in what is head coach Jim Murphy’s biggest personnel transition in years.
“What it means is, our margin of error isn’t great,” said Murphy, who enters his 15th season leading the Bobcats, with a career record of 255-103. “We’re going to have to play really fundamentally sound basketball every second to give us a chance to win.”
While there’s nothing the Bobcats can do about lack of experience but play through it, there is a deep pool of talented players on the team, who are ready to snatch up some of the newly available minutes for the first time. Murphy says that in contrast to recent years, when he tended to stick with a stable starting lineup and player rotation, the race for playing time is wide open, and it could remain so for the majority of the season. Murphy said early this week, as the Bobcats prepared for their first action this weekend at the Salem State College Tip-Off Classic, that he had settled on only three of five starters for Friday’s 2 p.m. tilt against Rhode Island College, and that the team would learn after Thursday’s practice who else will be on the floor at the opening tip.
The obvious member of the team’s lineup is senior co-captain Val Beckwith (Woburn, Mass.), who is by far the the most accomplished Bobcat. Beckwith, a 5-foot-10 forward, became only the second junior in program history to score her 1,000th point last season, and she earned her second spot on both the NESCAC All-Conference and MWBCA All-State teams on the strength of her 14.8 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.3 steals per game. Beckwith’s role as Bates’ primary scorer will likely draw more defensive attention to her, but she can also make teams pay with her knack for taking and making free throws (she was a team-best 92-112 (.821) at the line in 2007-08).
Murphy also expects to start 6-0 sophomore forward Jessie Igoe (Lexington, Mass.), who showed a promising all-around game last year while averaging 12 minutes per contest. And he sees first-year point guard Annie Burns (Topsfield, Mass.) stepping into the void at the point left by Barton, who has dominated the position for the past four years. Murphy likes the skills and athleticism he sees in a trio of first-year guards — Burns, Amanda Gifford (Lee, Maine) and Lauren Dobish (Chambersburg, Pa.) — and adds that sophomore Maggie DePoy (Chicago, Ill.) has been “absolutely shooting the lights out,” even from beyond the new, farther-out men’s three-point line, in practice.
“I’m excited to have some pretty quick guards who can put some pressure on the ball and push the tempo,” said Murphy.
Indeed, the coach is more concerned with the Bobcats’ frontcourt than the backcourt. Size has been an ally of the team during the Coffin and Kostakis years, but that time has passed. “We’re not going to be able to match up size-wise against a lot of teams,” Murphy said.
In the mix for playing time at forward will be senior co-captain ShawnRose Lanchantin (Natick, Mass.), junior Lauren Yanofsky (Belmont, Mass.), sophomore Christine McCall (Lowell, Mass.), sophomore Chelsea Pennucci (Mamaroneck, N.Y.), sophomore Emily Jasinski (Durham, N.H.) and first-years Kristen Finn (Winthrop, Mass.) and Kelsey Flaherty (South Portland, Maine). Also competing for minutes at guard will be junior Kellie Goodridge (Merrimack, N.H.) and sophomore Brittney French (Auburn, Maine).
“They’re working very hard, and they’ve been very receptive to whatever I ask them to do,” said Murphy. “They want to be good, they want to succeed, and they’re working really hard to be successful. It’s going to all come down to focus and concentration.”
The Bobcats will follow their season opener Friday afternoon with the tournament’s second round on Saturday, against either Salem State or Emerson, at either 1 or 5 p.m. They’re return home to host Southern Maine on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m., to be followed by the Bates and USM men squaring off at 7:30.