Women's basketball is 'on a mission in' 1998-99
Four seniors, two juniors, four sophomores, and three freshmen. Put them all together and you just might be looking at one of Dartmouth's most experienced women's hoops squads in years.
"For the first time in recent memory, I can tell you that we have experience," said Head Coach Chris Wielgus. "This team has worked really hard for this opportunity, and this is the year to prove what they've learned."
The Big Green lost just one starter from last year's 15-11 squad. Over her four years in the green and white, Bess Tortolani '98 dominated under the boards and provided Dartmouth with buzzer-beaters on several occasions.
But now, in Tortolani's absence, the biggest question isn't if the Big Green can fill the void, but rather what player will fill it.
Dartmouth's depth starts at the top with the team's four seniors. The backcourt, the paint and the frontcourt. The seniors have the whole court covered.
The Big Green's biggest plays this season will likely start in the hands of Nicci Rinaldi '99. The senior guard is currently fourth on Dartmouth's all-time assist list with 299 (including 112 last year).
You can also count on Rinaldi to sink the buckets -- she's now 18th on the Big Green's all-time scoring list. Last season, she averaged 8.8 points per game.
Now check out the paint: Katie O'Connor '99 has that zone covered. The 6' 2" center tapped in 5.9 points per game and pulled down 3.5 rebounds per game last year.
In the frontcourt, it's double trouble. Seniors Gyvonne Pinkston and Erin Rewalt bring poise, talent, and plenty of experience to the forward line.
There are only two juniors suiting up in the green and white this year but if history tells us anything, they'll both play huge roles on the squad this year.
Guard Courtney Banghart '00 plays with tremendous hustle and can be counted on to sink the three-point bomb almost on demand. Last year, she set the school record with 53 long-range buckets.
Swingplayer Liz Martin '00 adds an interesting dynamic to the team since she can shoot baskets and tackle the boards equally well.
The sophomores will add a balanced blend of backcourt and frontcourt talent.
"We have the deepest squad that I can remember," said Wielgus. "We go about ten deep, which is a change from previous years when we've only had one or two off the bench."
Sophomore guards Samantha Berdinka and Sherryta Freeman can create the plays and forwards Stephanie Kinnear '01 and Jackie Lippe '01 should have no problems pouring in the points. Lippe led the team in scoring in their exhibition over the weekend with 17 points.
The biggest challenge for Dartmouth this season may be its toughest schedule in a long time. Seventh-ranked Georgia comes to Leede Arena on Nov. 27, and the Big Green make a road trip to ACC-powerhouse Clemson over Christmas break.
"I tell every recruit who comes here that we will try to schedule the best competition we can. This year is one of the toughest schedules I can remember. But it should challenge our team, and I think they are looking forward to that."
When you look at Dartmouth's roster, it exudes talent, experience, and poise. All in all, it seems like a fitting invitation for the Ivy crown to return to Hanover this year.
"Most teams talk about winning the Ivy League championship, but this team is on a mission," Wielgus said. "They're doing their talking with their play on the floor and the way they've been training in the offseason. At times I just feel like I'm along for the ride."