By Dennis Clark
TERRE HAUTE — St. Mary-of-the-Woods coach Deanna Bradley had high expectations prior to this season, anticipating a welcome turnaround in the school’s struggling women’s basketball fortunes.
Bradley’s optimism was due to her roster of 13 talented athletes, sporting at least three starters returning for their sophomore seasons, along with a strong recruiting class of incoming freshmen.
But as the classic Rolling Stones’ song said, “You can’t always get what you want.”
Instead of a probable winning record at this stage of the season, the Pomeroys are saddled with a lowly 1-17 won-loss ledger prior to Wednesday’s annual matchup vs. Rose-Hulman at 7:30 p.m. inside Hulbert Arena.
What happened? Injury, after injury, after injury. You get the idea.
• Lexee Hayes, a former Northview standout, underwent a procedure harvesting cartilage for her injured ankle — a nine-month recovery process, according to Bradley. Out for the season.
• Abby McKee had shoulder surgery and was within a week of being released by the doctor, only to fall and re-injure the shoulder. Out for the season.
• Brooke Brown had foot surgery in the summer and was ready to begin the season, but tore a quad muscle in the second game. Bradley describes her availability as “iffy” at best and has played in just seven games.
• Jacci Martin “a tremendous recruit,” according to Bradley, pulled a hip flexor muscle and has been limited to just four games. Bradley was hoping she would be a big scorer, especially from beyond the 3-point line.
• Jordon Bedella was the second-leading scorer this season, averaging 10.3 points per game. But she suffered a stress fracture and has missed the last six games.
• Jade Messerschmitt was providing about 20 minutes a game, but missed eight consecutive games following the removal of a cyst from her foot. She returned for a brief appearance on Saturday.
Oh by the way, these half-dozen athletes provided the bulk of the size for the Pomeroys’ basketball engine. Hayes is 5-foot-10, McKee 5-11, Brown 6-1, Martin 6-1, Bedella 5-11 and Messerschmitt 6-0.
“It’s tough when you have three, or four, prospective starters out for the season,” Bradley lamented. “That’s our rebounding, defenders and scorers. We’ve had to bring in new players and try to make them impact players. We’ve had our challenges.
“I like to think our [record] is deceptive.
“It’s been a rough go for everybody. But we’re not ripping each other apart. So that’s good. We have the next [seven] games to show improvement. There are no excuses.”
Only six of the 13 players on the SMWC roster have played in all 18 games this season.
The most productive of those six is 5-5 freshman Chelsey Barron, leading the Woods in scoring (about 13 ppg), rebounding, assists and steals.
The other six durable Pomeroys include Rebecca Tracy (5-2 junior) — a transfer from Vincennes University — and the team’s leading 3-point shooter; Amanda Trimble (5-5 senior); Bailey Birt (5-8 freshman); Adrianne Blickenstaff (5-11 freshman); and West Vigo graduate Amanda Payne (5-7 senior).
“It’s been tough on our new kids to have to be playing all the time, with no returning players to look up to in tough situations,” Bradley added. “We won’t have that the rest of the season. We just want to finish strong.”
While Bradley focuses herself and her team’s energy in the here and now, it’s only natural for her to think what if?
“We’d probably be 11-5 if everyone was healthy,” Bradley predicted. “But you’ve got to deal with the cards that are dealt you. There’s an old saying ‘hard work will beat talent.’ We just haven’t worked hard enough.
“But that will not be the issue with Rose,” Bradley said of Wednesday’s annual crosstown rivalry. “[Rose] is physically strong. Their record is very deceptive too. They are definitely better than their record would indicate.”
On the subject of playing “home” games for the past few seasons at the old Clinton gym, Bradley said, “We like it up there … it’s great playing there. But you can’t get a good student crowd when you’re playing 15 miles from campus.”
On the prospect of a on-campus facility, Bradley did say, “It’s headed in the right direction.”
While the 2008-09 season has been a major disappointment for the Woods, the prospect of all these returning underclassmen plus four additional high school recruits will hopefully translate into a more prosperous 2009-10 campaign.
The four high schoolers committed to be Pomeroys next season are Lauren Miller (Speedway), Brittany Shaner (Center Grove), Dannie Cardwell (Noblesville) and Whitney Allen (Covington).