After a lackluster 2018 campaign in which the women’s basketball team finished seventh in the PSAC West with a 12-16 overall record, the Green and White were selected to finish seventh, once again, ahead of the 2019-20 season.
Defending PSAC Tournament, and Atlantic Region, champion Indiana (Pa.) received five first-place votes and was picked to win the PSAC West. California (Pa.) received two first-place votes and was selected to place second followed in the top five by Edinboro, Pitt-Johnstown and Seton Hill. Edinboro and Seton Hill also managed to receive one first-place vote each.
Gannon, Slippery Rock, Mercyhurst and Clarion rounded out the bottom four positions in PSAC West preseason poll.
As for head coach Bobby McGraw, he sees the annual preseason poll as not only motivation for his team, but as an indicator of how talented the PSAC West division truly is.
“The coaches in the [PSAC] feel that there are six other teams that are better than us, so that does motivate us,” McGraw said. “I mean IUP, Edinboro, [Cal (Pa.)], Seton Hill, UPJ, Gannon, that’s a testament to not only the best conference, but the best division in Division II basketball.”
From top to bottom, the PSAC West division is certainly competitive, as Indiana (Pa.), California (Pa.) and Edinboro all qualified for the NCAA Division II women’s basketball tournament in the Atlantic Region. Edinboro advanced to the round of 32, while IUP defeated Cal (Pa.) in the first round before advancing all the way to the elite eight for the second consecutive season.
With such high tier competition in their nine-team division, Slippery Rock’s experience will serve as one of the team’s distinct advantages this season. The senior class will be the pulse of the Slippery Rock women’s basketball team in 2019-20, as all four seniors are projected to start this season.
When speaking about his senior class, the passionate head coach went on a tangent about what each senior brings to the team and what makes each of them invaluable to the 2019-20 campaign, starting with his star guard, Brooke Hinderliter.
“When the lights come on, that’s when [Hinderliter] shows up,” McGraw said. “When we need her best, that’s when she shows up the most.”
Hinderliter is coming off a career year in which she averaged 18.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.2 assists on the road to becoming an All-PSAC West honoree for the second time in her career. The senior guard is already ranked 12th in program history with 1,201 points scored, and is 560 points away from becoming The Rock’s all-time leading scorer.
Next on the passionate head coach’s list came LeeAnn Gibson, who McGraw describes as a natural born leader.
“She’s a three-year starter and a three-year captain, she’s the glue on the team,” McGraw said. “[Gibson] is the toughest player I’ve ever coached on the men’s or women’s side, period.”
Gibson showed her determination last season as she battled back from a preseason injury that held her out of The Rock’s first nine games, averaging 6.8 points per game and a team best 54.1 field goal percentage.
Next on McGraw’s list is guard Madison Johnson, who is preparing to step into an expanded role in her third and final season at The Rock. McGraw spoke about how Johnson along with Hinderliter and Gibson made a profound impact in last season’s massive upset victory over No. 10 California (Pa.).
“Madison Johnson is a former Division I basketball player who has had some incredible games for us here,” McGraw said. “In the victory over California (Pa.) last year, those three contributed 52 points and 25 rebounds, they are unbelievable.”
Johnson served as a both a starter (nine games) and the top reserve role (18 games) on the way to averaging 8.6 points per game and 4.7 rebounds per game, both good for third on the team.
Just as importantly as the other three seniors, McGraw couldn’t help but praise the performance of forward Karington Ketterer.
“When you add in Karington Ketterer who gets better every single day, she’s an ultimate team player,” McGraw said. “When I tell you [that] she’s an ultimate team player, she’s worried about one thing, putting W’s in the win column.”
After transferring to Slippery Rock from Pitt-Johnstown, Ketterer appeared in 28 games and made two starts, accruing the second most blocked shots on the team with 17.
Each senior on the team personifies the versatility that the women’s basketball team will present this season, as each player specializes in a different part of the game. To round out the starters, junior guard Daeja Quick brings an improved game as she enters her second season with Slippery Rock.
Quick, who started 23 of 28 games for the Green and White last season, is set for a potential breakout year. In her second season at The Rock, the talented point guard received high praise from McGraw.
“Daeja Quick is possibly the most electric player in the conference on either side of the state,” McGraw stated with confidence. “She’s very, very hard to guard. She is incredibly dangerous.”
With Johnson and Ketterer elevating to starting roles, junior guard Kasch Harris will likely fill the role as the Green and White’s top reserve. With a high basketball IQ and the ability to pass the ball as well as shoot, McGraw describes Harris as the ‘ultimate backup’.
Aside from individual players, McGraw believes that his team have several of the key ingredients that make up a winning team. From team chemistry to passion, McGraw acknowledges that his team checks off many of those boxes that don’t appear on the stat sheet.
“Top to bottom, this is the most experienced team that we’ve had here in the six years that I’ve been blessed enough to sit at this desk,” McGraw said. “When you have veteran leaders, veteran performers and a good team chemistry, that’s a good start to a season.”
With an experienced lineup, exceptional depth, team chemistry, and not to mention a chip on their shoulder, the Green and White has the tools to exceed the expectations placed upon them by the PSAC West annual preseason poll. As for McGraw, his goal for the season is to flip the poll upside down and bring a division title back to Slippery Rock.
“We’re going to win the [PSAC] West this year,” McGraw said without hesitation. “I tell them that every day. We are going to win the West.”
In the realm of sports, it should be known to never count anyone out early. Slippery Rock will start its journey on Nov. 8 at 4 p.m. as they travel to Elizabeth City, North Carolina to battle Johnson C. Smith University.