Centenary (N.J.) 2011-12 women's basketball preview
HACKETTSTOWN, N.J. (November 9, 2011) - The women's basketball season tip off against Husson University on Friday, Nov. 18th at the Hunter Tournament will signify a new start and new beginning for the Cyclones under new head coach Justin Phoenix. Phoenix looks at the 2011-12 season with that very motto of, "New Start. New Beginning!" as a fresh start for new and returning players alike.
The Cyclones will try and improve on last season's 13-12 finish (10-6 CSAC) in which Centenary earned the sixth seed in the CSAC Tournament before falling to Immaculata University 87-59 in the opening round. The 2010-11 squad led the conference in scoring, averaging 74.8 points per game behind seniors Jen Vasta and Hannah Ally.
Phoenix takes over the helm of the Cyclones after serving as an assistant coach with Kean University for three seasons during which time the team went 75-15 with one New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Championship, three NCAA appearances, and two Sweet Sixteen appearances. The 2009-10 campaign saw the Cougars go 29-2 and reach the Elite Eight.
The 2011-12 Cyclones will rely heavily on the 13 returning players from last season to lead the way. Jen Vasta, a two time All CSAC guard recorded her 1,000th career point last season on Jan. 10, en route to averaging 16.3 points per game, fifth best in the CSAC.
Vasta was among the conference leaders in most statistics, including leading the CSAC in field goal percentage at .570. The senior also led the conference in assist/turnover ratio at 1.8 and was tied in steals per game at 3.3. When Vasta was not scoring, she was dishing out assists, finishing second in the CSAC with 98, an average of 3.9 per game.
Since 2008, Vasta has become Centenary's leader in several all-time statistics. Vasta currently resides at the top of the list in all-time field goals made (504), field goal percentage (.541), steals (276), and assists (312). In addition, Vasta holds the three best Cyclones single-season totals in assists and the top two single-season totals in steals. Coach Phoenix will call upon Vasta to be the leader this season as the Cyclones look to compete for the CSAC title.
Returning with Vasta is forward Hannah Ally, another senior who averaged in double-digit points last season (11.9) and led the team in scoring six times. Ally, also a factor on the boards, brought down 116 rebounds last year and is currently third all-time in free throw attempts and fifth all-time in free throws made. Her propensity to get to the stripe will be counted on in 2011-12 for the Cyclones.
Joining Ally at forward is senior Bridget McCann whom Coach Phoenix says will be relied on more this year to be a dominating force in the paint. As the tallest member of the Cyclones, McCann's ability to control the paint on both ends of the floor will determine much of Centenary's success.
Juniors Danielle Trucksess, Heather Russell, and Kellie Rose will be called upon to assume greater responsibility this season in the frontcourt. Trucksess averaged 4.9 points and 1.5 rebounds last season and looks to improve on those numbers this year. Senior center Chelsea Shaw averaged 2.1 points and 2.3 rebounds last season to round out the list of returning forwards for the Cyclones.
At guard, the Cyclones have a talented group joining Vasta. Senior guard Jasmine Rosa is another veteran whom Phoenix will look to for leadership this season. Rosa started all 25 games last season for the Cyclones, averaging 5.9 points per game.
Sophomore Ashley Bays, provided instant offense off the bench last season as she averaged 8.2 points in her 17.1 minutes per game. Bays proved how dangerous a weapon she can be when she scored a Cyclones season high 32 points on Nov. 18 at Eastern University. In the game, Bays was 10-16 from three-point range.
Senior Colleen Collins averaged 3.5 points last season and was a threat from beyond the three-point line. Collins shot 17-41 from beyond the line, a .415 percentage. Along with Collins will be sophomores Melissa Kukoda, Connie Hayes, and Klarissa Perry whom Phoenix expects increased production from in 2011-12. The two averaged 5.4, 1.9, and 1.7 points respectively.
In addition to the 13 returners, the Cyclones will expect the two newcomers to provide an immediate impact. Junior transfer Kristen Cenicacelaya joins the Centenary team after two seasons with Sussex County Community College. Cenicacelaya is the all-time scorer for the Skylanders and should add depth and strength in the paint for the Cyclones. Freshman Andrea Innis comes to Centenary after a standout career for Secaucus High School where Innis is the all-time leader in points in a single-season (579). Innis earned First Team All-State Group I honors in both her junior and senior seasons and looks to be a key player in the Cyclones' roatation.
Centenary opens their season at the Hunter Tournament on Nov. 18-19 before returning home to the Folkner Family Gymnasium for contests versus PSU-Wilkes Barre on Nov.22 and Albright on Nov. 26. The Cyclones begin their CSAC schedule on Nov. 30 when the women travel to LaPlume, Pa. to take on the Keystone Giants.
Coach Phoenix believes that the CSAC will be a highly competitive league this season and every team has the chance to be crowned champions. The 2011-12 season may be a new start and a new beginning for the Cyclones and Head Coach Justin Phoenix, yet it is the experience of many the many veteran players that will help Centenary throughout the season.
"I believe this senior laden Cyclone team will make every effort possible for a chance at that conference championship and to make the post season," states Phoenix. "I look forward to improving the mindset, confidence and skills of each and every player this season and for season's to come."