Preview: Big Players, Big Goals for Women's Basketball

Thursday, November 15, 2012 - page 2

According to an old basketball phrase, “You can’t teach height.”

Kate Clawson
Clawson averaged 5.4 points per game and was third on the Mules with 18 three-pointers last year.
Fortunately for the Muhlenberg women’s basketball team, height, or lack thereof, is not something that it has to worry about as it prepares for its 2012-13 hardwood debut tomorrow night at the Scotty Wood Tournament.

The Mules, who are the two-time defending Centennial Conference champions, return a strong contingent of post players, and have good size on the wings as well. Overall, 10 of their 16 players are 5-11 or taller.

“Our post players are strong, so I think we will be utilizing the post a lot more than in the past,” said senior co-captain Julie Kelly, referring to her team’s biggest asset this season.

Julie Kelly
Kelly has scored in double figures four times in her career, with a high of 16 against Bryn Mawr as a sophomore.
The most experienced posts are 6-foot-0 juniors Leeann Lanza and Erin Laney, who each averaged over five points per game and 5.0 and 3.7 rebounds per game, respectively, last season.

Joining Lanza and Laney down low are 6-foot-2 junior Katy Mitton, 6-foot-0 sophomore Emily Lesher and 5-foot-11 sophomore Leanna Tallamy. Tallamy transferred to Muhlenberg from Gordon College, where she was a first-team all-conference selection as a freshman and led the Commonwealth Coast Conference in points (19.0) and rebounds (10.6) per game.

In the both the mid-range and on the perimeter, the Mules will rally behind the leadership of another senior co-captain, Alita Zabrecky, one of the most versatile players on the team.

Last year, the 5-foot-8 Zabrecky led the team in rebounding, averaging 6.6 boards per game, and was second in scoring with 15.1 points per game. She was the leading scorer in 14 games and led the rebounding effort 13 times.

Alita Zabrecky
Zabrecky ranked in the top 15 in the CC in scoring, rebounding. steals, three-pointers, assist-to-turnover ratio and offensive rebounds last season.
Returning as a small forward is the third senior co-captain, Kate Clawson. A strong force off the bench for the Mules last season, Clawson saw action in every game and posted a 21-point effort at McDaniel. Sophomore Laura Gregory is also expected to contribute once she recovers from an injury.

Not to be overlooked is the absence of three starters, including the all-time leading scorer in Muhlenberg and Centennial Conference history. With these losses, the Mules will have to make some adjustments to their style of play.

“The scoring will be more spread out and we will be utilizing all of our players,” stated Kelly. “We have a deep bench and there’s opportunity for a lot of players to contribute. I think this is exciting for both the younger and the older players who haven’t seen as much playing time in the past.”

Sophomore Hannah Rush, who started six games last year, classmate Janelle Fleet and junior Colleen Caldwell form a group of point guards with plenty of on-court experience. Caldwell’s 55 assists and 25 steals last year are second-best among returning players.

“Our team is tough. We’re nitty-gritty, hard workers,” stated Kelly. “We try to chase after every loose ball, get every rebound and put a body on people when boxing out.”

Sophomores Nicole Pepe and Abby Stenger, along with Kelly, are the team’s returning shooting guards. All can hit shots from behind the arc and at 5-foot-11, Pepe and Kelly give the Mules a good height advantage in the backcourt.

In the preseason poll of coaches and sports information directors, Muhlenberg was selected to finish first in the CC. With nine first-place votes and 178 total points, Muhlenberg just edged out Johns Hopkins, who received eight first-place votes and tallied 176 points.

“I’m looking forward to trying to do the things we did in past years, like win the CC championship,” added Kelly. “I think we definitely have the talent to do that again and be just as good as we were last year – just with a different style.”

So what will the Mules be focusing on as they step onto the court tomorrow?

“We want to let other teams know that it won’t be easy to score on us,” said Kelly. “We want to send the message that we are going to try to outwork our opponents on every play.”