Maryland and Navy women eye NCAAs Strong finishes boost their confidence

October 22, 1997|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

While most of the area women's Division I college basketball teams opened practice four days ago searching for some offense, Maryland and Navy appear set for a run at the NCAA tournament.

Maryland returns the core of its scoring and rebounding with Sonia Chase, Kelley Gibson, Tiffany Brown and Kalisa Davis. The Terrapins lack depth but look to continue the momentum gained from reaching the NCAAs for the first time in four years.

"It gives you confidence," Maryland coach Chris Weller said. "It tells you that if you were good enough to get there last year, you can do it again."

Navy, which finished 22-6 and second in the Patriot League, was picked as the team to beat in a preseason Patriot League poll even without graduated leading scorer Adria Schneck. The reason: a strong frontcourt of Becky Dowling and Laurie Coffey along with two promising plebes, Felicia Harris and Mandy Stephan.

"Last year, we had to slow down the game and try to win low-scoring games with our defense," Mids coach Joe Sanchez said. "Now we've got more depth, we can play up-tempo, hopefully put more points on the board and extend our pressure defense the length of the court."

Besides Maryland, Navy and rebuilding UMBC, the other area Division I teams lost their leading scorers from last season and look to plug their scoring gap.

Loyola coach Pat Coyle will attempt to fill the scoring void with four returning starters and swing player Jennifer Bongard, who averaged in double figures as a freshman before redshirting last season. The Greyhounds add five freshmen into the mix, including second-team All-Metro Shannon Cohen from Mercy and Erica Rath, a second-team all-state player from Hazlet, N.J.

"I think chemistry is a big factor," Coyle said. "I think with the six weeks of conditioning and the first few practices, the team has blended well. As long as we stay healthy, we can compete for the [Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference] title."

Towson isn't focusing its efforts into replacing leading scorer Trinette Tucker. Instead, the Tigers are looking to improve on defense.

"You go back and look that we lost six games by eight points or less, which means we got to do a better job defensively," Towson coach Ellen Fitzkee said. "We have to give the other team less rebounds and less opportunities especially on transition defense. We gave up too many easy layups which became the difference in the ballgame."

In the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, Coppin State and Morgan State could start slowly this season.

Morgan State has seven newcomers after graduating four starters and two reserves from a team which posted the school's second winning record this decade. Coppin State lost its top inside scorer and must learn a new system under first-year coach Britt King, who compiled a 64-47 record at the University of District of Columbia.

Yet King and second-year Morgan coach Darcel Estep don't foresee a major step backward this season.

"I'm not taking the attitude of rebuilding," Estep said. "I went out this past season to recruit seven newcomers to help fill the loss."

King said she stresses offense and sees a controlled up-tempo style winning some games for the Eagles.

"While other teams might want to try and stop you defensively, we're just going to try and outscore the other team," she said.

The remaining Division I teams, Mount St. Mary's and UMBC, appear to be a year away from competing for their conference championships. The Retrievers return most of their players and will try to improve on a 4-21 season.

The Mountaineers lost their top two scorers but regain Megan Gardiner, the Northeast Conference's Rookie of the Year in 1995, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the sixth game last season.

Said Mount St. Mary's coach Bill Sheahan: "We're a young team and lost our two best players in Amy Langville and Nikki Schroyer, who are going to be tough to replace. And I think with our reputation, we're not going to sneak up on anyone."

Pub Date: 10/22/97

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