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Rams ready to run

November 16, 1996

By BOB PARASILITI

Staff Writer

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - It didn't take long to turn up the heat on the Shepherd College basketball teams.

Men's coach Denny Alexander and women's coach Betsy Blose, after all, must follow the school's football team, and its volleyball team, and its soccer team, and its tennis team, all of which prospered during the fall.

"It puts a little pressure on us when all the other teams do so well," Alexander said Friday, during Shepherd's annual media day luncheon at the Butcher Athletic Center. "I like pressure. Now it's our turn."

Alexander and Blose both talked about establishing programs built on a foundation of team chemistry and leadership.

"I guess we have a little more pressure," Blose said. "I put enough pressure on myself."

Eight men return from last year's 8-19 team. But voters in the preseason West Virginia Conference poll didn't seem to think older means better.

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"I'm disappointed that we weren't picked to finish in the top seven of the WVC poll," Alexander said. "I don't want to be No. 1, but we should be in the top seven. Last year, we beat Fairmont when they were in the top three in the nation. We beat West Liberty, the second-best team in our league, and we beat Bluefield, which won the WVC tournament title, and blew them out at their place. We have the people to compete. We don't have to go far to improve."

The Rams will open with the same starting lineup that ended last season - co-captains Chris Wilson and Rashad Crutchfield, Jim Coyle, Mike Johnson and Richie Sutherland - but Alexander said six more players, beginning with 6-foot-5 freshman David Thompson, will be counted on to get Shepherd more wins and respect in the WVC.

"We could be playing 11 players," Alexander said. "Our defense is going to dictate who's on the floor. I want to put so much pressure on the opposing team. We are working on trying to change the tempo so you have to worry about us more than we worry about you."

Blose's approach to the women's team is similar. The second-year coach has only five returning players - all guards - from last season's 10-15 team, but they represent the ground level of Shepherd's future.

"We are rebuilding and building for the future," Blose said. "We're young and we are learning everyday. We are trying to make progress every day so that we are playing our best in February."

Blose said Shepherd will unveil a more wide-open style because this year's team has more ability to push the ball and run the floor. The plan also includes a pressure defensive scheme to offset the Rams' lack of height.

The Rams, who will scrimmage Gettysburg today and open the regular season at home Tuesday against the University of the District of Columbia, are led by captains Sherrise Dowell and Chris Baer. Renee Lettington, Kassandra Kilby and Emily Friend round out the starting lineup.

"This year, the WVC tournament champion gets an automatic bid to the NCAA (Division II) tournament," Blose said. "That's our ultimate goal, to compete for a championship."

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