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Women's Basketball 2016-2017 Season Preview

Women's Basketball 2016-2017 Season Preview

11/16/2016 — As the Penn State Altoona women’s basketball program gets set to tip off its 19th NCAA Division III season, fourth-year head coach Casey Shoup knows that her team will need to rely on its upperclassmen to produce consistently while getting significant contributions from some first-year players to post a successful season.

"We’re looking for our returners to lead by example. These ladies have experienced great heights, such as being part of our 2014-2015 Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference playoff run, as well as tough times," said Shoup. "We also have quite the group of talented newcomers. These ladies are able to execute on a variety of levels and add great depth to our program."

Leading the Lady Lions’ returners is a pair of senior guards, Brittany Boslet (Altoona, PA/Bishop Guilfoyle) and Nicole Gripp (Tyrone, PA/Tyrone). Boslet is coming off of a season in which she averaged 8.3 points per game, 4.0 rebounds per game, and 1.9 assists per game while ranking fourth in the AMCC in three-pointers made with 36. Gripp averaged 8.0 points per game, 3.0 rebounds per game, and 1.9 assists per game, and she led her team in free throw average by making 78.1% of her attempts from the line.

Penn State Altoona also brings back junior forwards Megan Wheeler (Lilly, PA/Penn Cambria) and Shannon Zimmerman (Pine Grove, PA/Pine Grove). Wheeler and Zimmerman were one of the top shot-blocking tandems in the AMCC last season, combining to block 84 shots. Additionally, Wheeler averaged 10.8 points per game and 9.0 rebounds per game, while Zimmerman put up 9.7 points per game and 6.6 rebounds per game.

The Lady Lions also return second-year guards Shoshana Mahoney (Sweet Valley, PA/Lake-Lehman) and Alexis Stitt (Hollidaysburg, PA/Hollidaysburg). Mahoney saw limited action on the court last year, appearing in 13 games, while Stitt averaged 7.9 points per game, 3.6 rebounds per game, and 2.0 assists per game.

"For Brittany and Nicole, this is their last season, and I know that each of them wants to end on a strong note. Each of them has had individual success throughout the years, but they are looking to have new accomplishments, not only individually, but as a team," said Shoup. "Megan, Shannon, Shoshana, and Alexis know what it takes to be successful, and they’ve been very dedicated to putting in the time to help the team reach its fullest potential."

The roster also includes four freshmen players: guard/forward Finnley Christine (Tyrone, PA/Tyrone), guard Marina Scipioni (Altoona, PA/Bishop Guilfoyle), guard Kassidy Sorichetti (Halifax, PA/Halifax), and guard Kaley Strittmatter (Ashville, PA/Penn Cambria). Each of the four newcomers posted successful high school careers, and Shoup is hopeful that they will adapt to college level basketball.

"The four newcomers are strong, quick, and can score consistently. I’m looking forward to working with them and watching them grow throughout the season," Shoup stated. "I’ve been very impressed with their commitment, hard work, and leadership. Each of them has stepped up and guided the team in one way or another. They have bought in – they see the bigger picture and are willing to put forth the effort and time to get there."

To be successful in the AMCC, Shoup understands that playing effective defense is one of the biggest keys. Slowing down their opponents by being aggressive is an important area of focus heading into the upcoming season.

"Our identity needs to rest on our defense. We need to play in-your-face, aggressive defense each possession while relying on a key factor: communication," Shoup explained. "We are looking to cause a great deal of chaos by making our opponents work for every opportunity, getting on the floor, playing with pride, and showing determination. We want our opponents to feel so uncomfortable with each possession."

Shoup wants her team to stay focused on a daily basis, as well. She knows that there will be ups and downs, from possession to possession and game to game, but she wants her players to remain concentrated on everything that they can do within the moment to win games. Shoup sees this season as being one of the most balanced and competitive years among all the AMCC teams, so she believes that any team has the ability to rack up wins by playing focused and efficient basketball.

"The keys to our success are taking one possession at a time and playing our game. We need to ensure that we are playing our pace, staying true to our philosophy, and believing in ourselves as individuals and as a group," Shoup said. "If we continue to work together as a unit, communicate, and play hard, we will find success within the AMCC. There are great players on each team in the conference, but I do not feel that there is a primary, dominant team. Each team has the potential to win it all, and each team is most definitely beatable. None of us can afford to take one another lightly."

Penn State Altoona women’s basketball starts its 2016-2017 season on Friday, November 18 and Saturday, November 19 in the Lebanon Valley College Tournament. After that, the Lady Lions host their home opener and first AMCC game against Pitt-Greensburg on Wednesday, November 30 at 6:00 p.m. in the Adler Gym.

"Our focus during the preseason was unity. This was a concept that was missing last year," Shoup stated. "This group of ladies has come in from day one dedicated and ready to work hard. We are our biggest opponent, and we are working to strengthen our mental toughness and play with confidence. We understand that mistakes are going to happen, but frankly, what we have to keep in mind is that we’re all in this together and that we can have great success when we do it as a team."

Photo (left to right): The Lady Lions will be relying on strong contributions from its six returning players from last season: Shannon Zimmerman, Alexis Stitt, Shoshana Mahoney, Nicole Gripp, Brittany Boslet, and Megan Wheeler.

TAGS: women's basketball