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November 15, 2011

AC women get underway tonight vs. Grove City

November 15, 2011 7:00 a.m. — The North Coast Athletic Conference was tough enough when it came to women’s basketball. This season’s addition of DePauw — ranked 10th in Division III by D3hoops.com and 9th in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll — didn’t make things any easier.

Yet competing in that conference is once again the task at hand for the Allegheny College women’s basketball team, which tips off the 2011-12 season today at 6 p.m., hosting non-conference foe Grove City at the David V. Wise Center.

“It is a very competitive conference, from first to the last place team,” said fifth-year head coach Kate Costanzo. “Every night that you have a game, you know you’re going to see some good competition.”

Costanzo’s squad will be looking to follow up on last year’s successful 17-10 campaign and its runner-up finish in last season’s NCAC Championship Tournament. Allegheny lost to Denison in the conference title game, 72-54.

Denison will once again be a contender in 2011-12, coming into the year ranked 12th in the D3hoops.com poll and 16th in the USA Today/ESPN poll.

“With DePauw and Denison both ranked in the preseason Top 25, it has just gotten more competitive,” Costanzo said. “Now we have an opportunity to go up against two ranked opponents.”

First, however, the Lady Gators will tune up with a few weeks of non-conference tilts, like tonight’s against the Wolverines.

And those early match-ups will come in handy for the Gators, both to get the team’s group of returning players back up to speed, and to break in a promising group of newcomers.

“We don’t have any seniors,” said Costanzo. “So, in terms of that, you can think we have a younger team. But we do have a core of good returning players with some good, quality playing time experience. It’s a mix.”

The Gators’ back court graduated three starting guards after last season. Among them was second-team All-NCAC pick Jill Gregory (12.9 points per game, 73 assists), point guard Britni Mohney (2.9 ppg., 89 assists) and shooting guard Laura Magnelli (6.2 ppg., 53 assists).

Plus, Saddie Gravatt, who led the team in 3-pointers (38) as a freshman last season, isn’t playing for the team any more.

But on the plus side ...

“We have a lot of good experience returning to the inside game,” Costanzo said.

Leading off that group of forwards is first-team all-conference pick Heidi Goeller. The junior returns after leading the team in scoring (14.7 ppg.) and blocks (13) while finishing second in rebounding (5.9 per game) and making 91 of 110 free throws last season.

Also, junior Daryl Ford will be back at the four spot. Through 2010-11, Ford was fourth in scoring (9.9 ppg.) and was the team’s top rebounder (6.9 per game).

Giving the front court some depth will be junior Ann Ryan, who recorded 6.3 points and 4.6 rebounds per game while coming off the bench in a guard/forward role.

“We have some good experience in those three juniors,” said Costanzo. “They each have scoring and rebounding ability. It’s exciting to have that group back.”

Another exciting returner is sophomore guard/forward Erica Restich. She was tabbed as the NCAC’s Newcomer of the Year last season after averaging 10.9 points per game while knocking down 29 3-pointers, grabbing 4.7 boards per game, dishing out 43 assists and leading the team in steals with 40.

Restich will likely be taking up one of those vacated guard spots.

Who will run the point is still up in the air, however. It could be Restich. Ryan could play guard. Sophomores Becca Bajkowski and Cecilia Siegel are also candidates. A couple freshmen could also contribute, like Montour graduate Marina Scaratino and North Catholic grad Kendall Hoffman.

“We have a few people competing for it,” said Costanzo. “We do four-out, one-in offensive set. Offensively, a point guard is important, but not as crucial as another team’s offensive point guard. And we have a lot of people who can handle the ball, which is nice.”

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