Thursday, November 18, 2004
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Women Hit the Ground Running
The 2003-04 season gave followers of the Muhlenberg womens basketball team something they and probably most other people had never seen before.
Employing a style predicated on pressure defense, fast-break offense and frequent substitutions, the Mules shot and ran their way into the record books. They led all NCAA divisions in scoring (90.8 points per game) and three-pointers (10.19 per game). They scored 100 points in a game eight times, with a high of 116 on two occasions. They broke more than 30 school records and helped break five NCAA Division III marks, including most three-pointers made in a season.
Behind all the flashy numbers was a team of 18 extremely talented players, all of whom had the chance to contribute. And behind all the fun Muhlenberg had in the system was the disappointment of falling to McDaniel
For 2004-05, the Mules will stay with the helter-skelter pace and hope to be even more efficient on offense, as the smaller roster size (14) should provide better continuity. Muhlenberg lost an excellent group of six seniors to graduation, but ready to step into the limelight is an eight-member junior class that has made steady progress the last two years. And unlike last year, when the system was new to everyone, all the returning players have a years worth of experience under their belts.
The top three returning scorers are all perimeter players who broke the previous school record of 46 three-pointers in a season last year. Senior Gwen Doyle is the Mules career leader in threes with 122, including a school-record 53 last year. She averaged 7.9 points per game as a junior.
Splitting time at point and shooting guards will be junior Kristen Piscadlo, who had a breakout 2003-04 campaign. She averaged 9.2 points per game, set a school record with 117 assists and led the team in steals (60) and three-point percentage (.386). Last season, Piscadlo and the teams other point guards, senior Aril Bryant and junior Sam Tager, all finished in the top eight in the CC in assist-to-turnover margin.
Junior Tiffany Kirk set a school record with 171 three-point attempts, making enough of them (49) to average 7.1 points per game despite playing only 10.9 minutes per game. Junior Lindsay Orosz has the shooting ability to be a bigger contributor this season.
Muhlenberg took a big hit in the frontcourt, losing two all-conference centers and both of its starting forwards. Although the returning players are less established than they are in the backcourt, the Mules still expect to receive considerable productivity up front.
Junior forwards Stephanie Coluccini and Lacie Smith were among the 10 Muhlenberg players to average more than five points a game last year, checking in at 6.0 and 5.4, respectively. Both players are skilled at drawing fouls; they ranked third and fourth on the team in free-throw attempts last year.
Junior Valerie Robuck and sophomore Emily Wright are much improved and should get more chances to display their talents this year.
At the center position, sophomore Meghan Courtney is poised to become one of the Mules top offensive threats. She averaged 2.7 points and 2.2 rebounds in 22 games as a freshman with the teams two leading scorers ahead of her. Junior Michelle Hirst also should see more playing time after averaging 2.1 points last year.
Its Strength vs. Strength in Playoff Football Game
Which is more important in postseason football games, a dominant defense or a dominant offense? That question may be answered when Muhlenberg travels to St. John Fisher for an NCAA first-round game on Saturday.
The Mules (8-2) bring the dominant defense to the game. They currently lead Division III in total defense (167.1 yards per game) and pass efficiency defense (70.4 rating points). They also are second in rushing defense (53.6 yards per game) and fifth in scoring defense (8.2 points per game).
The Cardinals (9-1) boast equally impressive numbers on offense. They are 12th in Division III in scoring, averaging 40.4 points per game, and 19th in total offense, at 448.0 yards per game. Fisher shows good balance, averaging 232.0 yards on the ground (33rd in the country) and 216.0 through the air.
From the tapes this looks like the most balanced offense weve faced, said senior nose guard Michael Della Pella, who earlier this week was named to the All-Centennial Conference first team for the second year in a row. They have a great running back, so our first goal will be stop him and make them go to the pass. But they have a great passing offense too.
That running back, sophomore Mark Robinson, has carried for 1,712 yards and 19 touchdowns. He ranks third in Division III in rushing yards and second in all-purpose yards. Senior quarterback Curt Fitzpatrick is 13th in Division III in passing efficiency and has thrown 27 touchdowns passes, 11 of them to 6-3, 220-pound junior wide receiver Noah Fehrenbach.
This will be the third straight imposing offense Muhlenberg faces on the road. McDaniel and Moravian were both 18th in the country in rushing going into their contests with the Mules. They were held to 94 and 80 yards, respectively, and scored only six points against the Muhlenberg defensive unit.
McDaniel ran a similar no-huddle offense where they spread the field and still run the ball, noted Della Pella. [St. John Fisher] runs the bootleg very well so it will be important for us to read our keys. Everybody has to do their part.
The entire defensive unit has been doing its part since the Mules gave up three passing touchdowns on their last trip to Upstate New York, a 23-18 win at Union on Sept. 18. Since then the defense has allowed only two touchdowns none on 238 passing attempts in 34 quarters. The defense has not allowed more than nine points in a game since then, but faces a Fisher squad that has scored at least 27 points in every game.
Although the Muhlenberg defense against the St. John Fisher offense presents an intriguing matchup, the other two units may be on the field more. The Mules average a Centennial Conference-leading 34:22 of possession time, while the Cardinals keep the ball for less than half the game (28:38) on average.
The Muhlenberg offense has averaged only 18.1 points per game, but is coming off a season-best 28-point performance against Moravian and has its running back corps as healthy as it has been all season. Following sophomore Jerome Beverlys 111-yard effort, the Mules can rotate four tailbacks who have recorded 100-yard games.
Fishers defense has given up 350.9 yards and 24.8 points per game and allowed four teams to score at least 30 points.
Muhlenberg enters the game well-tested on the road. The Mules five road opponents this year had a combined record of 33-15, and all finished first or second in their conferences, with three (Johns Hopkins, McDaniel and Moravian) earning ECAC bids. Muhlenberg won four of the five games, losing only by one point to McDaniel, and came from behind in two of the wins.
Della Pella expressed cautious optimism for the playoff game. Were not over-confident, he said, But we believe in each other and we believe well get the job done.
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Last updated November 18, 2004