"I think last year was a huge step for the program," said co-captain and forward Pam Coppola. "I definitely think we can be a very strong team in the [Great Northeast Athletic Conference] this year.,After much improvement last year, a lot is expected from the 2005-06 Emerson College women's basketball team.
"I think last year was a huge step for the program," said co-captain and forward Pam Coppola. "I definitely think we can be a very strong team in the [Great Northeast Athletic Conference] this year."
The beginning of the season should prove to be the toughest road for the Lions, according to Head Coach Melissa Hart.
They open at the Amherst College Tip-Off Classic tournament against some of the tougher Division III schools.
"We have a much more challenging schedule," Hart said. "[But] we'll have played a higher level [of competition] when conference [play begins]."
The Lions go into the season shorthanded, as three players who averaged 20 minutes a game last season are currently injured.
Center Mallory Frers has an ankle injury and will miss the remainder of the semester. She is expected to play in January. In addition, guard/forward Ellie Feitlinger has an Achilles injury and is expected to return at the beginning of next semester. Finally, guard Kelly Kwiecinski is recovering from mononucleosis and should return to action shortly.
To add insult to injury, last season's leading scorer, senior Molly O'Keefe, is doing the L.A. program and will not return until next semester.
The players are still confident, however, that the team is good enough to be competitive in the first half of their season without those players.
"We're obviously beat up," Hart said. "We're not starting out as strong as we could be . it's tougher. [But] it should make everyone better in the long run."
Senior co-captain Jenny Barr still has faith in the squad despite these injuries.
"We have a really strong team, so when we have them back we will be even stronger," Barr said. "We have the talent on this team to sustain through what we lose."
Speed is still the team's strength, which the Lions hope will work to their advantage when GNAC play begins Jan. 6 against Pine Manor College.
"Our biggest strength is our quickness and our athletic ability," Coppola said. "Every girl is very athletic in [her] own right, and if we can run on big teams it's going to be real big for us to make steals and create points out of them."
Hart agreed with Coppola, saying Emerson has the capability to run against a lot of squads. Even though the Lions are not very tall as a whole, Hart said she plans on using the players' collective strength to win games.
"We're not bigger, but we can be hard to match up," Hart said. "It's a challenge for us, but on the offensive end the [opposing] team will have issues too."
Hart went on to say that bigger women guarding faster opponents on the perimeter would have a tougher time.
Even with the injuries, tougher schedule and absence of players, Hart said she is eagerly anticipating the season. She expects the remainder of the team to play at a better level then they did last season.
"I'm really excited about this year," Hart said. "We have players capable of stepping up."