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November 16, 2010

ROSE HOOPS PREVIEW: Women’s team, hoping to avoid last year’s woes, sees magic ‘bullets’

TERRE HAUTE — To say the Rose-Hulman women’s basketball team had difficulty last season, well, that would be putting it mildly.

The Engineers’ problems started early in the season when they dropped their first seven games, 13 of their opening 14 contests.

Upon closer examination, a trio of factors were prominent in summing up a season of futility.

• Rose averaged just 48.3 points per game offensively.

• Two players accounted for over half their points, field goals, free throws, rebounds and blocked shots.

• The Engineers finished the season with just eight players.

But things are looking up this season, according to fifth-year head coach Jon Prevo. At least he won’t be so lonely on the bench this season with a roster of 11 players, including four promising freshmen.

“Last year, we weren’t very deep and kind of fell into that trap of pacing ourselves,” Prevo recalled.

“[The players] knew they were going to be on the floor for extended periods of time. This year, we have a deeper bench and I’m going to rotate girls in and out. I’ve got a few more ‘bullets’ for my gun this year.”

Two of those “bullets” are his two leading offensive producers from a year ago, senior Donna Marsh (6-1) and junior Alisa Dickerson (5-11).

Marsh, a first-team selection in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference, averaged a double-double last season of 13.2 points and 10.5 rebounds a game. The Birmingham, Ala., native is also the school’s leading career shot blocker with 205, with a team-high 71 last year.

Dickerson, HCAC honorable mention, averaged nearly a double-double with 12.8 points and 7.5 rebounds. She also paced the team with 61 assists, playing point guard at times out of necessity.

Three other key returnees are sophomore forward Erin Davey (5-10), senior guard Nicole Klass (5-7) and senior forward Rebecca Bowermaster (5-11). Davey, an HCAC newcomer last year, averaged 6.8 ppg, Klass 6.6 ppg and Bowermaster 3.1 ppg.

Marsh, Dickerson, Davey and Klass are probable starters at the outset of the season.

Now for the newcomers, or the extra “bullets,” aforementioned by Prevo.

The fifth starter is slated to be freshman point guard Heather Finnell (5-6) from Decatur, Tenn. Finnell was an all-region and all-district tournament award winner in high school last year.

Also competing for starting positions are sophomore guard Lauren Meadows (5-7, a transfer from DePauw,) freshman forward Kelsey Ploof (5-11) and Bowermaster. Meadows played in eight games for the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference champion Tigers.

“This year, I feel I have eight or nine starters … which is a great luxury to have,” Prevo noted. “It’s a situation where on certain days in practice, when girls might not be focused or playing as well as they can, now I have the luxury of saying, ‘listen, this girl’s outplayed you’ or we can look at matchups.

“We’re a lot further along than where we were at this stage last year. The new players have really adapted to everything and are picking up things extremely well. What’s exciting is the girls are playing hard and competing every day. We have to have that mentality and that attitude.”

The other three players on the roster are freshman forward Jaci Dalton (5-10), freshman forward Kristin Uuk (5-10) and sophomore guard Kim Handoko (5-4). Uuk will not be ready for the start of the season because of a knee injury.

Asked to predict how his team would finish this season, Prevo grinned. He proceeded to spin a yarn, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, how his team would progress throughout this season, ultimately cutting down the nets at the NCAA Division III Tournament.

All kidding aside, Prevo said, “I expect my girls to show up and be competitive night in and night out. We were picked to finish seventh in the [HCAC] this year, and the girls expect to finish above that.”

Rose opens its season this weekend in Marsh’s hometown of Birmingham, competing in the Birmingham Southern Sheraton Classic. Rose plays the host team on Saturday, then opposes Louisiana College on Sunday.

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