Penn State-Altoona 2011-12 women's basketball preview
As the Penn State Altoona women's basketball team prepares to open its 2011-2012 schedule, head coach Donna Kling sees two important traits in her players: desire and athleticism.
"In the preseason, our girls have displayed an unbelievable level of commitment," said Kling, who enters her seventh year as the head coach of the team. "We've had to hold some practices very late at night, even on the weekends, and the players were always there and ready to go. That desire will hopefully continue to be a strength of ours."
The Lady Lions return some key players this year, each of whom is expected to have a regular impact on the team. Sophomores Kaleigh Floyd and Casey Drick form the cornerstone of the lineup after both playing extensively as freshmen last season. Floyd averaged 6.5 points per game and 2.0 rebounds per game, while Drick posted 5.8 points per game and 5.5 rebounds per game.
"Kaleigh and Casey will be the foundation of the team because of the court experience they gained last year, but also because of their work ethic and desire to be successful," said Kling. "They will be instrumental to the success of our team this season."
In addition to the return of sophomores Hayley Fockler and Suezanna Conley from last year's squad, junior Tiffany Seasoltz and sophomore Linzie Stahl are back after year-long layoffs caused by health issues.
"Hayley and Suezanna will be counted on to contribute on a daily basis in practice as well as in games," Kling explained. "Tiffany and Linzie bring a level of athleticism and competitiveness that is infectious."
The team has also added some height to its roster, with five newcomers measuring 5'10" or taller. Kling knows this can help with rebounding, which can also ignite fast-break situations, and increase the Lady Lions' presence in the paint. But she doesn't want to place too much significance on having a taller team.
"I am a believer that the size of a player's heart is more important than their overall size," Kling said. "At this level of basketball, you play because you have a passion for the game and competing. Size never hurts, but it's not an assurance of anything without the work ethic to accompany it."
As for the newcomers to the team, Kling expects them to get their feet wet during the early portion of the schedule. By the time Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference play begins at the end of November, she hopes many of them will be ready to contribute more regularly.
"The newcomers will grow more accustomed to the speed and physicality of the college game, and then be a big part of our program once the conference portion of the schedule begins," said Kling.
Several freshmen players have shown flashes in the preseason. Brittany Kaewell is both physically and mentally strong with an intense competitive spirit; Jessica Murray is a great athlete, allowing her to do some unique things on the court; Natalia Renteria runs well and has displayed a knack for getting her hands on the ball; Erin D'Arcy is a competitor who pushes others and always strives to improve.
Three other newcomers transition from Penn State Altoona's AMCC champion volleyball team to the basketball team: freshmen Moira Corrigan and Marina Cotarelo and junior Katey Cheplick.
Kling hopes to be able to use her team's physical talents to apply defensive pressure in a variety of schemes – creating an up-tempo game – and to run an effective half court offense. But the key will be adapting to her players' skills in certain game situations.
"Being good at these things will take a lot of mental and physical commitment, as well as accepting that the success of the team is more important than anything else," said Kling.
Kling is excited about the Lady Lions' potential this season. When her team tips off on Tuesday, November 15 against Chatham University, they will be ready to bring the success they have envisioned to fruition.
"I'm definitely looking forward to this season with these girls and coaches," said Kling. "The preseason has been long and grueling, but now the fun begins."