I wasn’t planning on blogging about the UMBC women’s basketball team, leaving my time and effort to giving very in depth coverage to the men’s team, but after pushing #14 Virginia to the brink last night it showed they really deserve to be covered and to have the Maryland sports fans know about them. If you read my earlier post you’ll know that the women’s basketball team was leading the nationally ranked Virginia Cavalers with under eight minutes to play, but just could not finish like Virginia could and lost. But even with the loss they really showed they have the ability to be very competitive this year and possibly make it back to the NCAA tournament, which they went to in 2007.
This season they are only picked sixth in the America East coaches poll, but anybody who knows anything about the team knows they are certainly much better than that. Last season they finished fifth in the conference and this year they return 96% of scoring from that team, which led the America East Conference in points.
The Retrievers are led by the two-time conference scoring champion Carlee Cassidy, who became the first player in conference history to average more than 20.0 ppg (she scored 20.4 ppg). Cassidy is UMBC’s all-time leader in three-point field goals, is third in career scoring average (13.8), second in free throw percentage (.802), fifth in three-point field goal percentage (.324), and seventh in total points (1,228) coming into the season.
But expect this season to be a break out year for sophomore Michelle Kurowski, who was an all-rookie team selection last year. In her freshman campaign she averaged 13.7 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 1.6 apg, and 1.6 spg while shooting 40.6% from the field. Last night she showed this were well could be a big year as she led all players in the game with 21 points while grabbing seven rebounds.
Last night junior forward Meghan Colabella also dominated the game, getting a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds. Last year Colabella was extremely effective, but very quiet about it. She rarely led the team in points but just gets the job done. She averaged 6.4 ppg and 6.2 rpg, and played great interior defense. She may see more scoring opportunities this year though as she has moved from the center spot out to the power forward spot and should have more room to move around.
This year with the starting lineup being moved around, sophomore Topé Obajolu started at center against Virginia. While she only averaged 3.5 ppg and 3.1 rpg in 27 games (five started) last season, she is far and away the most athletic player on the team and should see more chances with that precious year under her belt. Obajolu does provide solid interior defense and she recorded 24 blocks last season.
The point guard position is up from grabs between sophomore Katie Brooks, and two-year starter Michele Brokans. While Brokan’s play against Virginia was limited because of a foot injury, Brooks was expected to start the season anyway due to her combination of passing ability and scoring ability, having averaged 9.3 ppg and 2.1 apg. She scored over 20 points four times last year and just gives more options to the team when she’s in.
But that does not mean she is guaranteed the position. She did not play exceptionally well in the opener and the team ran smoother when Brokans was in. While she is not a scoring threat, just 1.6 ppg last season, she is a very skilled natural point guard as she averaged 3.7 assists per game and was second in the conference with a 1.7 assist-to-turnover ratio. She also led UMBC with 52 steals.
Off the bench expect to see all-rookie team player Erin Brown, who started 27 games last season. She could move back into the starting lineup, but off the bench she provides fresh legs and a big time scorer. She averaged 9.2 ppg and 5.5 rpg last season while shooting 45.1% from the field. She recorded four double-double’s last season and could be in for another big year.
Other options off the bench are defensive ace Chrissy Robinson, a 6’2″ junior center who played 19 games last year, starting three. She may not get many points (0.9 per game) or rebounds (1.6 per game) or any other stats for that matter, but she really limits the oppositions shot opportunities and forced teams to kick the ball outside.
Fellow junior Chelsea Barker is not very big, just 5’8″ and very small in stature, and does not get many stats (1.8 ppg, 0.5 rpg) but provides scrappy defense on the perimeter by having quick feet and lanky arms. She played in 17 games last season, making one start.
The lone freshman this season is Kim Browning, and she joins UMBC with a very impressive resume. The 6’2″ forwards is Hanover High School’s all-time leader in assists and second leading rebounder. She averaged 11.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg, and 4.0 apg during her career and was named to the top 50 seniors list by Virginia Preps.
With Phil Stern (174-200) at the helm, UMBC has a fiery coach that the team can feed energy off of. At the mid-major level his record is quite impressive and he has already led a team to the NCAA tournament in 2007.
This season with all of their returning and experienced talented you can expect big things from the Retrievers.