2011-12 Women's Basketball Season Preview
Tuesday, November 8, 2011 - 6:37 am

SUNY Potsdam women’s basketball Head Coach Tara Ruckh and her team feature a fresh outlook for the 2011-12 season. The Bears add five newcomers to the mix and the seventh year head coach is looking forward to the new beginning.

“This year is a big one for us in terms of rebuilding,” said coach Ruckh. “We have five new kids, combined with a solid group of returnees, who are excited about the possibility of being successful.”

In order to find success, Coach Ruckh has stressed an improvement on the offensive end. The Bears struggled to put points on the board last season as they averaged just 48.1 points per game. They will look to be more efficient with the ball in their hands. The team was stagnant at times and the coaches would like to see the Bears be more aggressive and make plays.

“We have to find ways to put the ball in the basket,” said Ruckh. “I would like to see a balance of inside and outside looks. We’d also like to push the ball up the court more to create easier looks and increase the tempo.”

Defense was the strength for Potsdam last year. The team finished fourth in the SUNYAC in points allowed during conference games. The stingy “D” only permitted conference foes to score 58.8 points per game, which trailed only the conference champion Geneseo, runner-up Oneonta, and fourth-place New Paltz.

“We have to continue to get better on the defensive end,” Ruckh said. “We want to be a solid man-to-man defensive team that is tenacious and pressures the ball.”

To find improvement, the Bears are going to rely on a solid combination of returners’ experience and newcomers’ skill. The new roster will be counted on to overcome the losses of Aimee Kellicutt and Brittany Whitton, the team’s first and third leading scorers last year. The duo combined for 20 points and 7.6 rebounds-per-game a year ago with Kellicutt garnering third-team All-SUNYAC honors.

“We have a good amount of depth and more scoring options this year, which we’re excited about,” said Ruckh. “We will probably play eight or nine girls per game and they are going to have to earn time in practice.”

The leader of the aforementioned scoring options is junior guard Katy Briedis. She was the team’s second-leading scorer last year, averaging 8.2 points-per-game. However, the team lost two point guards from last season and Briedis will be shifting to the point for the first time in her collegiate career. Coach Ruckh has already noticed an improvement in her ball handing and is excited to see her running the offense.

The team also returns a pair of versatile sophomores who hail from the same home town. Lefty Hannah Kmiecinski and shooter Jessica Kouzan both saw action as starters at times last season. The two combined for 21 starts and chipped in with 9.2 points and 6.7 rebounds-per-game. Kouzan also knocked down 20 three-pointers.

The Bears will also rely on a group of solid inside players to help out on the boards. Seniors Kaley Arsenault and Sophie Parks as well as junior Adedoyin Akingba will play in the frontcourt. The group has experience, 152 games worth for their careers, but will need to pitch in on the glass as the Bears struggled to control rebounds last season. Coach Ruckh has asked the group to perform more consistently and thinks they are ready to respond to the challenge.

Senior Stephanie Marcotte and sophomore Chenice Russell bring solid veteran experience to the court.

Coach Ruckh hit the recruiting trail this past offseason and came back to campus with an impressive group of freshmen, which she has high hopes for. The group features a diverse set of players led by Bailey Weigel. Weigel is a smart player who is a solid shooter and rebounder. Joining her is slasher Colleen McNamara, described by Coach Ruckh as a “sparkplug”. Carli Reynolds will stretch the defense with her shooting ability, which will benefit the aggressive game of Veronica Sapp. Freshman transfer Diamond Simmons rounds out the group and can expect to see time at the point guard position.

The team will face a daunting schedule this season. Aside from their rugged conference slate, the Bears will take on a host of challenging teams, scheduled by Coach Ruckh due to the similarity of their play to conference foes.

Potsdam begins the season with Empire 8 powers Utica College and Ithaca College sandwiched around the SUNY Canton Tournament. Also on the docket is a road game at Hamilton College. The Continentals have posted winning records seven of the past eight seasons. As usual, the Bears will see their three North Country rivals and would like to repeat the 2008-09 season, where they swept SUNY Canton, Clarkson and St. Lawrence.

Potsdam begins the conference season with a road trip to Oswego. They will take on the defending champion Blue Knights on Dec. 10, at home and travel to Geneseo on Feb. 17.

With a clean slate and a talented roster, Coach Ruckh is energized for the season.

“We’re excited about the new possibilities,” said Ruckh. “It’s a new year and there is a refreshing feeling right now. With the new personalities and the veterans, we all have high expectations for the season.”