Wittenberg 2011-12 women's basketball preview
The Wittenberg Tigers return seven letterwinners, including three starters, in hopes of returning to the top of the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) heap in 2011-12.
Senior Sarah Watson (Hudson, Ohio/Hudson) is the team's top returning starter after earning second-team All-NCAC honors a year ago while increasing her scoring and rebounding averages for the second straight year. While she ranked second on the team in rebounds at 6.5 per game, Watson also creates mismatches on the perimeter as one of the team's top three-point shooters. She averaged 13.5 points per game in 2010-11 while hitting 24 three-pointers, second-most on the team.
Watson is as comfortable facing the basket in space as she is playing with her back to the basket on the blocks. When operating on the perimeter, Watson will frequently feed the Tigers' most potent post threat, junior Kim Replogle (Houston, Ohio/Houston), who averaged 7.5 points and 4.8 rebounds per contest off the bench a year ago.
The team will lean far more heavily on its depth and experience on the perimeter, although the loss of first-team All-NCAC wing Katherine Hueter is significant. Senior Lauren Cassel (Columbus, Ohio/Dublin Coffman) is likely to pick up some of that slack after a breakout 2010-11 season in which she started all 26 games. Cassel evolved from defensive standout into an equally reliable scoring option a year ago, shooting a team-best 48 percent from the field while averaging 8.6 points and 3.8 rebounds per game and finishing with more assists (39) than turnovers (34).
Versatile senior Lyndsey Clark (New Carlisle, Ohio/Tecumseh) is the Tigers' third returning starter in 2011-12. Like Watson, Clark has the ability to score and defend in the post but is just as comfortable handling the ball and shooting from distance. She averaged 6.1 points and 4.8 rebounds per game a year ago.
Juniors Aimee Carpenter (Cleveland, Ohio/Lutheran West) and Sarah Skidmore (Troy, Ohio/Miami East) and senior Lindley Bell (Pittsfield, Mass./Mount Greylock) provide depth and experience to the line-up after each earned her first varsity letter in 2010-11. In addition, a six-player recruiting class includes multiple players who are certain to see extensive playing time in 2011-12, starting with guard Amber Lara (Oak Park, Ill./Forest Hills).
The Tigers are coming off their first losing season in more than 20 years after finishing 12-14 overall and 7-7 in the NCAC in 2010-11. As always, the non-conference schedule is extremely challenging, including road trips to Ohio Athletic Conference powers Baldwin-Wallace and Capital to go along with nationally ranked Thomas More. The conference schedule is more difficult than ever this year as well, with nationally ranked teams from DePauw and Denison standing atop the preseason polls.