By Drew Karpen
It was a tough finish for the Allegheny women’s basketball team at the end of the 2011-12 season. After starting the campaign 8-3, the Gators finished by losing six of their last eight games, including a loss to Wittenberg in the first round of the North Coast Athletic Conference tournament.
But last season is in the rearview mirror. And sixth-year head coach Kate Costanzo and the rest of the Gators are itching to get back on the court.
“My expectations are similar to what they always are,” said Costanzo, whose squad begins its season on Friday at 6 p.m. at the David V. Wise Center against Penn State-Altoona.
“We want to finish at the top of the conference and host a quarterfinal game,” she added. “The better position we put ourselves in the conference tournament, the better chance we have at receiving an NCAA bid.”
Allegheny, who is fifth in the NCAC preseason poll, returns four of five starters from last year’s squad.
Well, mostly. Among those returning starters is junior guard/forward Erica Restich. She averaged 15.8 points per game last season, banged in a team-best 59 3-pointers, led the team with 54 steals, and was second with 70 assists.
However, her return will be delayed. Restich is currently rehabbing from a knee injury she suffered last season and, according to Costanzo, will likely be ready for the second semester.
Restich is one of three Gators who finished in the top five in NCAC scoring last season. The other two were Heidi Goeller (16.9 ppg.) and Daryl Ford (15.7 ppg.). Both of those girls led the Lady Gators in rebounds last season with 8.0 per game.
Goeller was a junior in 2011-12, but graduated early from Allegheny.
Ford, however, is back for her senior year. And it could be a big one for the 5-foot-8 forward. She currently stands with 728 points for her career, needing 272 to become the third player under Costanzo’s tutelage to break the 1,000-point mark.
And should Ford need a little advice on how to do that, she need only ask former Allegheny 1,000-point scorer Jill Gregory, who was added to Costanzo’s coaching staff this season.
During her Allegheny career from 2007-2011, Gregory accumulated 1,193 points, ranking her third on the Allegheny all-time scoring list.
“Having (Gregory) on the staff will bring a lot of enthusiasm,” Costanzo said. “She understands the system. She is in a good position to be a strong mentor.”
Another key returnee for the Gators is senior guard/forward Ann Ryan. Ryan averaged 7.0 points and 5.8 rebounds per game last year and has plenty of experience under Costanzo’s system, playing in 76 games in her Gator career.
Other key players returning for the Gators will be sophomore forward/guard Kendall Hoffman and sophomore guard Marina Scarantino.
Hoffman scored 3.9 points and 4.6 rebounds per game a year ago. She was also a key defensive presence, collecting 30 blocks and 22 steals.
Scarantino will return as the point guard after starting in 12 of the 26 games last year as a freshman. Scarantino led the team with 85 assists, good for fourth-highest in the conference. Also, Scarantino’s assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.5 led the conference last year.