Women ballers open season
The waiting is over. After consecutive losing seasons-- Dartmouth's first back-to-back campaigns under .500 in its 17 seasons with head coach Chris Wielgus -- the Big Green women's basketball team is ready to attempt a return to their tradition of excellence.
The Big Green, which won 13 Ivy League championships between 1980 and 2000, spent the last two seasons in mediocrity while rebuilding its roster. While the inexperienced squad struggled last year without any senior leadership on the floor, this year's edition returns all five starters and 12 letter-winners to the floor as well as adding four talented freshmen to the lineup led by Katharine Hanks '03, twice named to the All-Ivy first team.
Hanks enters her final season fifth on the school's all-time scoring list with 1,359 points after leading the League in scoring average at 20.7 a game. She also became the third player in school history to record 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 100 blocks and ranks in the top-10 in seven different categories in the school's all-time list.
While the Crimson is the media's favorite to win the Ivy League title, it is not a stretch to think that Dartmouth, fourth in the league last year, will finish higher than the predicted third place with a vastly improved team.
Although this year's team is strong at all five positions of the court, there is little argument over the fact that Dartmouth's greatest strength is in its front court.
Hanks is a versatile forward who can hold down the fort inside the paint with strong rebounding and shot-blocking with an ability to score from anywhere inside the three-point arc while occasionally stepping outside for a triple.
Katie Skelly '03 will have to step up as the one to help Hanks carry the load. Skelly ranked third on the team in both scoring and rebounding with 9.3 points and 4.4 boards per game and is expected to play a larger role in Dartmouth's game plan.
Heather Hanson '03, a 6'3" center, will be a key player in Dartmouth's success. Hanson showed outstanding potential last year when she moved into the starting lineup in the middle of the year, averaging 3.0 points and 3.5 rebounds in only 17.4 minutes of playing time per game, while averaging more blocks per 40 minutes that anyone else on the team. With a year's worth of experience and weight-room training, Hanson is expected to be the presence in the middle that will stabilize Dartmouth's defense.
Starting at the two-guard for Dartmouth will be Keri Downs '03, who ranked second on the team with 15.0 points per game and earned All-Ivy honorable mention last year. While Hanks provides the threat inside for Dartmouth's opponents, Downs will be expected to knock down the perimeter shots to add to the Big Green's arsenal.
Courtney Lewis '04 will be the play-caller of the experienced team for the second year in a row. Lewis comes off a sensational season in which she dished out 138 assists, the second highest single season total in the school's history. But she did more than just drop dimes last year. She contributed in every manner on court.
She scored 9.2 points per game to rank fourth on the team and grabbed an amazing 4.8 rebounds per game as a 6'0" point guard, a statistic second on the team only to Hanks. She was the key defensive presence also, averaging 2.96 swipes per game to lead the team and had 23 blocks, again second on the team only to Hanks.
While she did make mistakes on the court as a first-year starter, Lewis is expected to be an effective floor general for the Big Green, reducing the costly turnovers and improving shot selection.
"While we graduated no seniors last year, we are a completely different team," Lewis said. "Everyone in the off-season worked very hard and it is clearly evident in our play. We brought in four freshmen who are very talented and really add great things to the mix. Everyone is a threat. Overall, people can expect great things from this team, maybe even an Ivy League title."
Their first game of the regular season, against Maine, will be at Leede Arena against Maine at 7 p.m. tonight.