November 3, 2011

Women's Basketball Ranked Sixth In NEC Preseason Coaches' Poll

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Full Northeast Conference Preseason Poll Release

HAMDEN, Conn. – The Quinnipiac University women's basketball team has been selected to finish sixth in the Northeast Conference Preseason Coaches' Poll. The poll was announced by the league office on Thursday, Nov. 3 in its annual media teleconference. The Bobcats finished the 2010-11 season in seventh place in the NEC standings with an 11-7 record in conference play and a 14-16 overall record. Quinnipiac clinched a spot in the NEC Tournament for the 11th consecutive year.

Saint Francis (Pa.), the 2011 NEC Regular Season and Tournament Champion, was picked to finish first in the poll with four first-place votes, while Robert Morris was tabbed second with two first-place nods. Long Island followed in third, while Monmouth and Sacred Heart were tied at fourth in the rankings, each receiving two first-place votes.

Fairleigh Dickinson was the coaches' seventh choice, followed by Bryant in the eighth position. Central Connecticut and Wagner were slated to finish in the 10th and 11 slots, respectively, while by Mount St. Mary's and St. Francis (N.Y.) rounded out the poll.

2011-12 Northeast Conference Women's Basketball Preseason Poll
(First-Place Votes)
1. Saint Francis (Pa.) (4)
2. Robert Morris (2)
3. Long Island (2)
T4. Monmouth (2)
    Sacred Heart (2)
6. Quinnipiac
7. Fairleigh Dickinson
8. Bryant
9. Central Connecticut
10. Wagner
11. Mount St. Mary's
12. St. Francis (N.Y.)

Season Outlook

The 2011-2012 season brings with it much anticipation for the Quinnipiac University women's basketball program. With eight returning players and seven new faces added to the group, expectations are soaring for this year's campaign.

The Bobcats will certainly miss the loss of All-Northeast Conference First Team selection, Courtney Kaminski; however, returning four of their top five scorers from last season is undoubtedly comforting to Head Coach Tricia Fabbri. Kaminski led the conference's third ranked offense with 12.6 points and 6.5 rebounds en route to her second consecutive All-Conference selection. However, poised to fill that void on offense will be senior Jacinda Dunbar and junior Felicia Barron, a duo that combined to average over 20 points per game in 2010-11.

This year the up-tempo Bobcats will bring their tenacious pressure and high octane offense to the hardwood. A team very hungry to claim the NEC title and its first trip to the NCAA Tournament, expectations are high for the women's basketball program.

Backcourt

Two-year starter and last year's floor general, Felicia Barron will endure a different role for the Bobcats this season. In 2010-11, the Springfield, Mass. native had the ball in her hands and led a potent offense that averaged just fewer than 64 points per game. She tossed in 11.5 points per contest, only second to Kaminski, and led the team in both assists (3.9) and steals (2.1). This season, Fabbri looks to use Barron off the ball in more of a shooting guard role. Barron is an athletic talent that, with a strong team showing in the Northeast Conference standings, can be in the running for Player of the Year. She demonstrated her potential during a three game stretch last season, where she averaged 23 points per game, including a 25 point effort on the road at Mount St. Mary's.

Joining Barron around the perimeter will be a slew of dynamic guards. Led by Kari Goodchild, a senior-captain from Van Horne, Iowa, she appeared in 26 games and averaged 8.3 points per contest last season. She brings three years of collegiate basketball experience, having transferred from Kirkwood Community College to Quinnipiac in 2010. Goodchild's signature performance in a Bobcats' uniform came against St. Francis (Pa.), when she posted a season-high 20 points and seven boards at the TD Bank Sports Center.

Third-year player Lisa Lebak is also back in action for the 2011-12 campaign. Lebak appeared in 29 games last season and averaged 1.4 points per outing. She will likely get the nod at point, but will share time with Gillian "Boo" Abshire this season. Boo, a 5-foot-10 guard from Washington, D.C., enters her freshman season after a stellar high school career. Abshire presents a difficult match-up for opposing defenses, as her size and physicality is out of the ordinary for the point guard position.

Also competing for time in the backcourt will be newcomers Jasmine Martin, Shaina Earle and Ryann Simmons. Martin, a 5-foot-9 guard from the South Jersey area, has the potential to be one of the best players in the league as she progresses through her career. Martin offers a combination of quickness and creativity to the hardwood. In addition, she's a proven scorer, easily surpassing the 1,000 point mark in her four-year career at Timber Creek. Also from the New Jersey area, Shaina Earle brings tenacity and mental fortitude to the squad. Earle enjoyed a tremendous career at Blair Academy Prep, where she led the Demons to a 25-3 mark and a State Championship. Simmons, now as healthy as ever, grants the Bobcats with an artistic dimension on the offensive end. Her quick decision-making and knack for slashing in the lane will generate several points underneath.

Front Court

The Bobcats return two talented members of their 2010-11 front court in Jacinda Dunbar and Brittany McQuain this season. Dunbar, who averaged 9.7 points and 5.7 rebounds last season, comes back as the team's best rebounder for the 2011-12 campaign. After a successful offseason where she improved upon her mid-range game and fitness, Dunbar is expected to be a terrific asset in transition. In addition to the work put in during the summer, anticipate her team-leading 47 percent shooting from the floor last season to creep closer to or surpass the 50 percent plateau.

McQuain, a 2010-11 All-Northeast Conference Rookie Team honoree, will look for even better numbers this season. She is the team's only "true center" and offers a myriad of ability with her back to the basket. Her gift to score the basketball demands attention from opposing defenses, which in return, creates opportunity for QU's athletic guard play. McQuain's stellar freshman campaign consisted of 9.2 points per game and several double-doubles in NEC competition.

Furthermore, look for McQuain to join the transition game with Dunbar, as her enhanced cardiovascular endurance will generate additional problems for opposing teams.

Joining Dunbar and McQuain underneath will be two sophomores and a junior from last year's squad. Shelby Sferra, a junior from LaGrangeville, N.Y., is described as the team's "most fierce competitor" by Fabbri. She is the team's best offensive rebounder, due in large part to her work ethic and basketball knowledge. Sferra averaged just over two points and two rebounds per game last year, two statistical categories that will be sure to flourish this season.

The sophomore tandem of Camryn Warner and Ellen Cannon will also provide Fabbri with plenty of depth at the forward position. Warner is listed as a power forward, but offers an accurate three-point shot and exceptional guard skills as well. Fellow classmate, Ellen Cannon, brings a similar skill set with the potential to chime in with double-digits on the offensive end. Last season, she poured in 14 points at New Hampshire, a game where she knocked down four from behind the arc and shot nearly 50 percent from the floor.

Three newcomers to the team, freshmen Samantha Guastella, Jaci Oskam and Nikoline Ostergaard, may also have an impactful season for the Bobcats. Guastella's game relates to Dallas Maverick's superstar, Dirk Nowitzki, as noted by Fabbri. She's extremely talented with the potential to be one of the league's top players this season. She is knowledgeable and always composed on the offensive end, but can also contribute behind the ball as well. Oskam is a sharp-shooter who will migrate between the power forward and small forward role, while Ostergaard presents another big frame in the front court and offers solid fundamentals to the offense.  

The Schedule

The 2011-12 schedule poses several daunting challenges for the Quinnipiac University women's basketball team. The Bobcats kickoff the campaign with the season-opener on Nov. 11 against James Madison, a squad selected to finish third in the Colonial Athletic Conference. Tip-off is scheduled for 4 p.m. at the TD Bank Sports Center.

After that, the Bobcats hit the road for their first match-up away from home, where they take on Holy Cross on Nov. 16 in Worcester, Mass. Followed by another home game against Fairfield (Nov. 20), QU will travel out west for the St. Mary's Concord Hilton Thanksgiving Classic. The tournament features three top tier programs in Virginia Tech, Minnesota and the hosting Gaels. The Bobcats are guaranteed a match against Minnesota on Nov. 25, and will then wait the winner/loser of the other match-up, depending on their results against the Gophers.

Quinnipiac then returns to Connecticut for three games at the TD Bank Sports Center. The Bobcats close the month of November with a showdown against UMass (Nov. 29) and then begin conference play against Bryant (Dec. 3) four days later. Game time against the Bulldogs is scheduled for 12 p.m. QU caps off the three-game homestead against Sacred Heart on Dec. 5 at 7 p.m.

As the holiday season approaches, the Bobcats endure the final stretch of their non-conference schedule. Quinnipiac travels to Rhode Island (Dec. 10), plays host to Yale (Dec. 20) and closes the month with a road trip to American University and Army. The Bobcats concluded non-conference action against St. Joseph's at 7 p.m. on Jan. 3 at home.

After its final tune-up game against the Hawks, Quinnipiac hits the most difficult part of its season. The Bobcats play five of their next six games on the road over a span of three weeks. The period consists of games against St. Francis (N.Y.), Long Island, St. Francis (Pa.), Robert Morris, Bryant and Sacred Heart.

QU returns home to host Wagner (Jan. 28) and Mount St. Mary's (Jan. 30), before taking on another three-game road trip. After traveling to Monmouth (Feb. 4), Fairleigh Dickinson (Feb. 6) and Central Conn. St. (Feb. 11), the Bobcats welcome a stretch of games at home to conclude their regular season.

The Bobcats host Central Conn. St. on Feb. 15, travel to Long Island on Feb. 18 for their last road game and then host their final three games. QU welcomes St. Francis (N.Y.), Robert Morris (Feb. 25) and St. Francis (Pa.) to wrap up the regular season. In their second to last home game against the Colonials, the team's senior class members will be recognized for their illustrious careers with the women's basketball program. 

Contact: Tony Distasio; Ardistasio@Quinnipiac.edu