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November 15, 2013

Rose-Hulman women looking for strong season

Engineers get started against IU-South Bend on Friday

TERRE HAUTE — With seven freshmen and three sophomores on its roster, the Rose-Hulman women’s basketball team will open its season tonight against the Indiana University-South Bend Titans.

Tipoff is slated for 7:30.

Already busy in November, IU-South Bend will bring a 5-1 record and a three-game winning streak to Hulbert Arena for this matchup. On Tuesday, the Titans defeated Concordia University 60-48.

In 2012-13, Rose ended up 12-14 overall and 8-10 in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference, good for sixth place. The HCAC preseason coaches poll for 2013-14 tabbed the Engineers to finish seventh, which did not sit well with eighth-year coach Jon Prevo.

“I don’t feel like we should be seventh,” he told the Tribune-Star. “We’ll utilize that as bulletin-board material. … With the returning players we have and some of the freshmen who are giving us depth in some areas we were lacking last year, I’m pretty comfortable. I just think our program isn’t built on being a seventh-place conference team. I know we’ll work extremely hard.”

Two Rose-Hulman players are still rehabilitating from summer surgeries — 5-foot-9 sophomore guard Andi Evers (ankle/foot) and 5-10 freshman forward Jamie Loving (torn meniscus) — but both should be ready to play early this season. Also, 5-7 senior guard Lauren Meadows missed three-quarters of last season with a knee injury, but Prevo thinks she’ll be closer to 100 percent than Evers and Loving to open the season.

Leading the list of key returnees for Prevo’s squad is senior Kelsey Ploof, a 6-foot center who averaged 10.7 points and 9.2 rebounds per outing and earned All-HCAC second-team honors last sesaon.

“We’re expecting Kelsey to have an outstanding senior year for us,” the veteran coach said. “She’s probably worked harder in the offseason than at any stage since she’s been here.”

Meadows, who tallied 9.3 ppg last season before being sidelined with her injury, is back to start at the 2-guard.

“We’re looking for Lauren to get back to where she was before her injury last year,” Prevo noted. “At that time, she was playing extremely well.”

Carrie Morris, a 5-6 sophomore, is likely to start on the wing after being a late-season starter in ’12-13.

“From about the middle of last season up to now,” Prevo assessed, “Carrie has probably grown as much as a player and improved the most [as anyone on the team].”

Sheree Williams, a 5-6 junior, should start as well, alternating between the point and a wing. Cassidy Cain, a 5-6 sophomore who also played soccer for Rose during the fall, may handle most of the point-guard duties again, although she’s reportedly suffered some sort of injury recently.

Gracie Gibbs, a 5-10 junior, will line up with Ploof on the front line. She was the team’s second-leading rebounder last season, grabbing 4.7 boards per contest.

Prevo said that Evers, once she’s fully recovered from her surgery, should join the lineup as a 2- or 3-guard.

“We’re excited about the group, we’re excited about the potential that we have and we’re very excited about how hard they’re working each day,” Prevo summarized.

Among the freshmen expected to contribute immediately is 6-3 Josie Schmidt from Eighty Four, Pa. She’s the tallest player in Rose women’s basketball history. Other freshmen — including Loving, 5-10 Abbie Marshall, 5-7 Kristen Belyea and 5-6 Ava Paruleski — may make their presence felt sooner rather than later.

“I think our depth is going to be much more noticeable this year,” Prevo said. “We’re going to be deeper than we have been in the past.”

Prevo admitted that his starting five may not be the same from game to game, even if all of his players eventually get healthy.

Two of last season’s freshmen, Hayley Gilliam and Addie Johnson, chose not to return to the team this season. Prevo said Gilliam has been focusing on soccer and Johnson is focusing on track, in addition to their studies at the engineering institute.

As for the rest of the HCAC, the preseason coaches poll named Transylvania as the favorite to claim the championship. Last season, Transylvania captured the regular-season title and Hanover won the tournament crown.

“I think it’s going to be really strong from top to bottom,” Prevo predicted about the conference. “I think Transylvania is very much deserving of that [preseason favorite] position. They return everyone. … But I think there’s a number of teams that can contend for a top spot.”

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