Slippery Rock University women’s basketball is set to kick off their 2018-19 season with some out of conference action when The Rock travels to Erie, Pa. this weekend to participate in the PSAC-CIAA challenge with matchups against Johnson C. Smith University on Saturday and Elizabeth City State College on Sunday.
Johnson and Elizabeth are both part of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. The Rock was picked to finish fourth in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) West in the annual preseason coaches poll with defending champion Edinboro University (27-4) picked to finish first. Indiana University (Pa.) (30-4) was picked to come in second, with California University (Pa.) (24-7) slatted to finish in third.
“You know I can give you the coach speech and say that preseason rankings are a dollar twenty will get you a Twix bar,” McGraw said. “But at the end of the day it is a big deal. That is our highest preseason ranking in 18 years. We are ranked behind three national powers.”
Head coach Bobby McGraw enters his fifth season at the helm of The Rock’s women’s basketball program, and has compiled a 45-66 overall record. Last season the Green and White went 12-16, landing themselves a spot in the PSAC Tournament for the second time under McGraw. The Rock went 10-12 in PSAC action last season.
SRU returns five starters from last season including All-PSAC honoree junior guard Brooke Hinderliter who averaged 14.1 points per game last season with 6.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.3 steals. Hinderliter shot 43.7 percent from the field last season and 86.1 percent from the free throw line.
“Brooke tries to elevate her game everyday,” McGraw said. “Depending what time you walk in, day, night, whatever, she’ll be out running, be in the weight room. Brooke Hinderliter is never satisfied with what she did the day before.”
The returning senior class is a bit thin with just two returning players in forward Morgan Henderson and guard Ciara Patterson. Henderson has competed in every game since her sophomore season, while averaging a career-high 9.3 points per game last season, with 18 blocks, and a field goal percentage of 48.8 percent.
Patterson started 11 games last season and in that time averaged 15.8 points per game with 3.8 rebounds and 2 assists.
“Ciara Patterson is the heart and soul of this team,” McGraw said. “She brings the fire and it’s a big deal to have her back.”
With just two seniors on the roster this season, coach McGraw feels there is still leadership looming in the locker room.
“LeeAnn Gibson is going to be a three-year starter, two-year captain. Brooke Hinderliter is going to be a three-year starter,” McGraw said. “We have a ton of leadership other than the two seniors on paper.”
Part of the core junior class includes forward LeeAnn Gibson who hasn’t missed a game since first stepping onto the court her freshman year. Following a standout freshman year, Gibson averaged 6.6 points per game last season with 4.8 rebounds and shot 49.3 percent from the field.
Last year St. Francis University transfer guard Madison Johnson made 22 starts last season in her first year with The Rock and averaged 9.2 points per game, including a 27-point performance against Shippensburg University, 17 points against Clarion University, and 18 points against Seton Hill University.
The Rock welcomes a few transfer athletes to the program including junior forward Karington Ketterer from Pitt-Johnstown, sophomore guard Daeja Quick, and redshirt sophomore guard Kasch Harris.
“Karington Ketterer is built like a cage fighter and she plays like one. She’s strong, she steps on the floor with two goals in mind: to defend and to rebound,” McGraw said. “Daeja Quick, electric is about the best word I can use. She averaged 16 points per game last year as a true freshman at the District of Columbia.”
Rounding out the rest of the PSAC West from the preseason coaches poll includes number five Gannon University (16-13), Seton Hill University (20-10), Mercyhurst University (10-18), Pitt-Johnstown (10-17), and Clarion University (7-21) in ninth.
The way the conference looks from top to bottom, according to coach McGraw, any program can win on any given night with talent up and down the board in the West.
“There really isn’t a bottom half of this league and that’s not coach speak,” McGraw said. “Teams can get clipped in this league if they don’t come ready to go every single night. The bottom really isn’t there so to speak.”
The Rock won’t get their first taste of conference play until Dec. 3 at East Stroudsburg, as they are set to face off against unfamiliar out of conference opponents until then. SRU’s first opponent this season, Johnson C. Smith University finished last season with an 18-10 overall record. Tipoff for that game will be this Saturday in Erie at 1:00 p.m.