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Senior guard Andrea Holmes and sophomore guard Jasbriell Swain are two of the four starters returning this season for the women's basketball team.
Photo by Jonathan Cohen
Women’s basketball preview: Three all-conference players lead team
November 9, 2011Tweet
The 2010-11 season marked a renaissance for the Binghamton women’s basketball program. After four years of struggling to reach the .500 mark, the Bearcats finished 19-12, including an 11-5 mark in the America East Conference. Binghamton defeated every conference opponent at least once and three players were named to the all-conference team. With four starters and nine letter-winners returning this year, the stage is set for another sterling campaign in 2011-12.
“The start of a new season is always exciting,” head coach Nicole Scholl said, “Especially this year since we have an experienced group that is familiar with our offensive and defensive systems. The new players have also adjusted very well and are picking things up quickly. This year’s group definitely wants to be challenged and improve on the success that they reached last year.”
Binghamton returns 88 percent of its scoring from last season, including senior forward Viive Rebane who was named second-team all-conference last season. She finished with 11.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per contest. In addition, she led the America East in field goal percentage (.490) and added 2.3 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.0 blocks per game.
“Viive had a great season last year and I felt that she really gained a lot of respect from the coaches in the conference as one of the top players in our league,” Scholl said. “She plays with such a high level of confidence and really leads this team by example. We have asked her to increase her shooting range over the summer, so I think she has the opportunity to show that she has the complete package with the ability to play both inside and out.”
The unsung hero for the Bearcats in the paint has been junior forward Kara Elofson. In her sophomore campaign, she took the pressure off Rebane with 8.5 points and 7.9 rebounds per contest.
“Kara had a breakout year for us last season when we moved her back into her natural position as a forward,” Scholl said. “This year, her goal is to become a go-to threat for us on the inside and not just see herself as a role player.”
Since senior point guard Andrea Holmes arrived on campus three years ago, she has been one of the top players in the conference. After being named third-team all-conference as a freshman and second-team all-conference in 2010, she rose to the first-team her junior season. Holmes has led the Bearcats in scoring the past two years, including a career-high 14.3 points per game last year. Although she suffered a season-ending injury in late February, Holmes appears ready to once again lead the squad in her final campaign.
“Andrea has accomplished so much already for our program, but this year, I think her leadership is going to be the key piece for this team,” Scholl said. “Her experience and desire to excel can only help in the success of the team this year.”
Sophomore guard Jasbriell Swain was a key difference maker on last year’s squad. She was named the America East Rookie of the Year after finishing her freshman season with 8.3 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. She started every game in 2010-11 at the wing guard position.
“Jasbriell was a pleasant surprise to everyone last year with the success she had as a freshman,” she said. “Her challenge this year is to be more consistent with her outside shooting and mid-range game. Defensively, she has the ability to be one of the top defensive players in the league again.”
Stepping into a starting spot this year is senior guard Orla O’Reilly. Coming off the bench last year, she averaged 7.8 points per contest at the shooting guard position. When Holmes went down with an injury late in the season, she moved into starting duties at point guard.
“I feel like this is Orla’s year to really shine,” Scholl said. “We are asking her to do more scoring for us this season with the graduation of (starting guard) Jackie Ward and defensively, she has worked hard at becoming a top defender on our team.”
Depth was a problem for Binghamton last season at the guard position but a trio of new faces, along with returning sophomore Stephanie Jensen could go a long way in solving that issue this year.
Junior Mallory Lawes is a transfer from Loyola (Md.) who sat out last season. Vaneeshia Paulk is a sophomore point guard who transferred from East Georgia Community College. Arriving from Lockport Township (Ill.) High School, meanwhile, is freshman shooting guard Gintare Surdokraite.
“We definitely have more depth at the guard position this year, especially with the addition of Vaneeshia Paulk at the backup point guard position,” Scholl said. “Mallory is a fantastic shooter and Gintare is doing well at picking up our system.”
Like the guard position, Binghamton had a thin bench last year up front. In freshman Sherae Swinson and sophomore Julia Barac, however, the team hopes to find the needed depth. Swinson arrives from Odenton, Md., where she starred at Archbishop Spalding High School. Barac, meanwhile, transferred from Rhode Island last year and like Lawes, is ready to step on to the court after sitting out the 2010-11 season. Senior Sinead O’Reilly and junior Simone Thomas should see significant minutes this year for the Bearcats and also returning at the forward position is sophomore Kyra Aloizos.
“Like the guard position we have good depth up front this year,” Scholl said “Each player brings different strengths to our team, so it’s just a matter of match ups and where we have the advantage.”
After opening up at home against Mt. St. Mary’s on Nov. 11, and heading to Siena four days later, Binghamton heads to Minnesota Nov. 18-19, for its first in-season tournament of the year. At the end of December, the Bearcats head to St. Peter’s for its other two-game tournament. Arriving at the Events Center during the non-conference slate are Syracuse (Nov. 26), St. Bonaventure (Dec. 3) and UMass (Dec. 19).
“We tried to set up a more competitive schedule for this season,” Scholl said. “Our staff felt that we wanted to challenge our veteran group early on in the year to help prepare us for conference play.”
America East play starts with a Jan. 2 home game against Maine. At the conclusion of the 16-game conference schedule is the America East Tournament in Hartford on March 1-4.
“It’s going to be a challenging and competitive year for everyone,” Scholl said. “A large majority of the teams have at least three returning starters back from last year. I think it’s going to come down to bench production and teams remaining injury-free.”