The Rocket

Women’s PSAC West to feature fierce competition

Stephen Cukovich, Assistant Sports Editor

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The Indiana University (Pa.) Crimson Hawks and the Warriors of East Stroudsburg have been picked to finish number one in their respective divisions in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) preseason coaches poll with The Rock projected to finish sixth in the west.

Green and White sophomore guard Brooke Hinderliter was the top PSAC West freshman last season as she averaged 10.5 points and 4.8 rebounds per game.  Head coach Bobby McGraw led his team to a 9-19 overall record last season which landed them eighth in the division, but with additions like St. Francis transfer, redshirt sophomore Madison Johnson, McGraw likes what his team has to bring to the table.

“This is the best team chemistry I’ve had here in my four years as head coach without a doubt,” McGraw said.  “This team really enjoys being around each other.  When you have chemistry and skill you have a chance to do something pretty special.”

Indiana, who defeated California University 84-79 last season in the PSAC Championship game, lead by head coach Tom McConnell was able to take first place in the west coaches poll after receiving eight of the nine first place votes.  All five starters from last year will return including junior Carolyn Appleby who posted an average of 14.7 points per game and senior guard/forward Megan Smith who helped out with 14.1 points a game.

In second would be California who posted a 30-4 record behind the top offense in the PSAC with 80.6 points a game was able to earn them the top spot coming out of the west last year behind head coach Jessica Strom.  The team will return three starters including last season’s conference leading scorer, senior forward Seairra Barrett who was able to earn her team an average of 18.6 points and 6.8 rebounds a game.

“We don’t talk a lot about offense,” Strom said.  “Most of our offense comes from our defense; its the same expectations as last year.”

Third in the west brings Edinboro University behind head coach Stan Swank who finished fourth in the division last year with a 21-9 overall record.  In one of the top offenses in the conference, the Fighting Scots lead by senior forward Ciara Rosten was able to collect 11.9 points a game, while the team averaged 70.5 points.

Seton Hill clocks in at number four in the west lead by head coach Mark Katarski who lead his team to a 16-13 record last season while he watched senior guard Jenna Kaufman dominate and rack up 15.2 points a game against their opponents.

“I hate talking about individual players,” Katarski said.  “It’s a one year season, no one has a head start.  What happened last year has no effect on this year.”

At number five comes Gannon University who returns all five starters as well such as senior guard Maggie Mitchell who tallied 17.3 points per game last season which landed her fifth in the conference for scoring.  The Golden Knights ended their season with a 9-19 record placing seventh and missing the PSAC Tournament for the first time in five years.

After The Rock, at number seven sits Clarion University who made the playoffs last season at the number six seed with a 15-14 overall record.  Returning starters include junior guard Jordan Bekelja who averaged 11 points a game and senior guard Amesha Harden-Pullium with 9.8 points per game.

Sliding in at number eight would be the University of Pitt-Johnstown behind head coach Mike Drahos.  The Mountain Cats posted an 8-20 record with a team that included seven freshmen players with most of them seeing a lot of court time.

“They made major strides,” Drahos said regarding his seven freshmen last year who are now sophomores.  “Importantly they got experience and hopefully we are more battle tested coming into this season.”

Rounding out the west lands Mercyhurst University who landed a 24-8 record last season putting them in third place in the west, saw many of their starters graduate this off-season and added six freshman to their roster.  In fact the Lakers have just one senior and two juniors on their roster, making them one of the most inexperienced teams in the PSAC.

Coming out of the east, the Warriors were picked number one receiving seven of the nine first place votes behind head coach Diane Decker.  Senior guard Imani Brown and junior guard Noelle Powell who earned first team all-conference honors last season as they combined for 26.3 points per game.  They ended with a 19-9 record last season and fell to California in the quarterfinals of the PSAC Tournament.

Second from the east and receiving the other two votes of the possible nine was West Chester University who finished with a 10-17 record behind head coach Kiera Wooden.  The teams leading scorer senior guard Porscha Speller averaged 13.7 points and 5.8 rebounds per game last season as she received first team all-conference honors.

Up next Kutztown University comes in at number three lead by head coach Janet Malouf posting a 13-18 overall record last season.  The reigning PSAC East Freshman of the Year, guard Sierra Taylor, will look to continue her dominance as she averaged 11.2 points per game in her rookie year.

In fourth is Bloomsburg University who is coming off a 11-17 season after a poor start, but then wining 10 of their final 15 games.  Junior guard Alyssa Mack lead the team in scoring with 13.2 points per game.  Head coach Alison Tagliaferri’s team lost in the quarterfinals last season to Shippensburg University.

Shippensburg comes in at number five after finishing number one in the east last season with a 24-7 record which joins East Stroudsburg as the only Eastern teams to finish with a record above .500.  Behind head coach Kristy Trn and the Raiders will look to overcome their 67-58 semi-final overtime loss to IUP last season.

At number six is Millersville University is lead by longtime head coach Mary Fleig who earned her 600th career win last season when the team posted a 10-19 record earning them the six spot in the PSAC tournament.  Senior guard Alayah Hall lead the team last season in scoring as she registered 13.1 points per contest.

Starting the bottom third of the east comes Lock Haven University who finished with a 10-16 record behind head coach Jennifer Smith.  After their leading scorer graduated, junior guard Madison McHale may be the one to fill that roll as she finished second on the team in scoring with 10.3 points per game.  Cheyney University comes in next after posting a 6-17 record last season, while Mansfield finishes off the east in ninth after posting a PSAC worst 5-21 record last year.

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Women’s PSAC West to feature fierce competition