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Muhlenberg College

Thursday, November 19, 2009

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Season Preview
women’s basketball eyes “three-peat”

“The most difficult part of attaining perfection,” goes the old saying, “is finding something to do for an encore.”

CC Preseason Poll
School 2008-09 Record Points
1. MUHLENBERG (20) 26-4 (18-0) 200
2. McDaniel (2) 15-12 (11-7) 157
3. Johns Hopkins 14-13 (11-7) 145
4. Dickinson 14-12 (11-7) 143
5. Gettysburg 14-11 (11-7) 142
6. Swarthmore 13-12 (10-8) 110
7. Franklin & Marshall 14-12 (11-7) 108
8. Ursinus 6-19 (5-13) 66
9. Washington 11-14 (6-12) 56
10. Haverford 6-16 (5-13) 53
11. Bryn Mawr 2-23 (0-18) 21
something to do for an encore should be no problem for the Muhlenberg women’s basketball team, which opens up tomorrow against Pitt-Bradford in the opening round of the Scotty Wood Tournament. Actually doing it will be the difficult part.

The Mules swept through the Centennial Conference
Kaitlyn O’Malley
O’Malley hit a big three-pointer in the Mules’ 58-57 win at Bowdoin in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
season with an 18-0 record last year – the first team to do that – then won two more league playoff games to capture their third CC championship in four years. They went on to win two games in the NCAA Tournament to advance to the “Sweet 16” for the first time in program history.

So what’s left for a team whose members have been walking around with sweatshirts that call last year “The Perfect Season”? For one, Muhlenberg has a rare chance to improve on its perfect CC record, as the league schedule is now 20 games with a full double round-robin. The Mules also are in position to become the first CC basketball team (men’s or women’s) to “three-peat.”

And then there’s the NCAAs. “We’d like to make it further this year,” said Brenna Ferster, one of four seniors on the team. “We played well last year but we feel we could do better. That’s definitely our goal – work hard every day and go a little further.”

To accomplish all that, Muhlenberg will have to live with having a target on its back due to its success last year and the preseason attention it has received. The CC coaches and sports information directors made the Mules the first unanimous choice in the preseason poll since the league
Alexis Bates
Bates had her best game last year in the Mules’ closest CC call, hitting two free throws with 1.7 seconds left in overtime for a 77-76 win at McDaniel. Muhlenberg travels to McDaniel for its first CC game on Tuesday.
went to one division in 2003. Muhlenberg’s 43-point margin over the second-place team in the poll (McDaniel) smashed the old record of 24 set by Johns Hopkins in 1997 and 1999.

In the national polls, Muhlenberg is ranked 10th in the preseason by both and the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association.

“I was honored [at being ranked 10th] but also a bit surprised because we lost two very good starters,” said Ferster. “It should be a tight race throughout. There are a lot of good teams in our conference and anything can happen.”

The Mules did lose two very good starters, but they return three very good ones. None may be better than junior point guard Kelly McKeon, a first-team All-CC choice who led the team in assists (149), rebounds (254) and free throws made (109) and attempted (149) last year. She also was second in steals (42), tied for second in three-pointers (16), third in scoring (12.4 points per game) and fourth in blocks (10) for Muhlenberg, while ranking ninth in Division III in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.48).

Also back is sophomore Alexandra Chili, the regional rookie of the year in 2009. She shattered the school record for three-pointers in a season (96, the highest total in Division III) while averaging a team-leading 16.0 points per game and setting school records for points in a season (480) and assists by a freshman (118).

Junior forward Sheila Cook is the third returning starter. She averaged 12.6 points in 12 games after earning a starting role and shot a CC-leading 55.1 percent from the field.

Muhlenberg also returns a host of other experienced players, which made for an easy start to the preseason. “Our team seemed a lot older this year,” commented Ferster. “They came in with more confidence and more comfortable with each other. That made it easier to teach the newcomers – we could just lead by showing them what to do.”

Ferster, Alexis Bates, Maiza Mock and Kaitlyn O’Malley are fourth-year veterans of the program. Bates has started 34 games at forward the last two years and has career averages of 4.7 points and 4.3 rebounds. Mock was one of the top reserves last year, used in a variety of roles. O’Malley gives the team three-point shooting and defense off the bench. And Ferster’s contributions, while not apparent in the statistics, are in the locker room and on the practice floor.

Junior Alexandra Berlin, one of four newcomers on the roster, is a transfer from Division I Loyola (Md.) who is expected to contribute right away in the backcourt. A trio of sophomores – guards Kimberly Mui and Katy Rossino and center Kathleen Naddaff –will look to expand their roles this season after seeing significant time as rookies.

The Mules intend to use their depth and athleticism. “We’re going to be more of a running team this year,” said Ferster. “It won’t be so much setting up a play when we need points.”

The team appears to have all the ingredients in place for another run at the CC title. And that would be a nice encore to “The Perfect Season.”

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