Shepherd hopes to give a shock to the system

November 18, 2005|by BOB PARASILITI

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - The Shepherd University women's basketball team is looking to become the Howard Stern of the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

The Rams want to be a bunch of shock jocks.

The FCC can relax. Shepherd isn't about to hit the airwaves, just the floor to start a season where the element of surprise will be the secret weapon.

"We are still one of the youngest teams in the conference," said Shepherd coach Jodie Runner. "We only have three upperclassmen. But this is probably the most talented team that I have had here. We are going to shock some people."


It is a different cast for Shepherd, which finished sixth in the WVC last season and is picked to finished eighth this year.

In the past, the Rams have been driven by their guard play.

This season, all the experience is coming in the middle. It all starts tonight when Shepherd faces host California (Pa.) in the first round of the University of California Tournament.

"It's a change because all of our experience was on the perimeter," Runner said. "Now it is inside. The big question will be how all the sophomores who were playing behind seniors will play. They all have worked hard and have confidence. I think they can shock the world."

The nucleus of Shepherd's game will come from centers LaToya Fisher and Danielle Costello and forward Casey Landrum.

Landrum, a 6-foot senior, returns as the leading scorer from the group, averaging 10.6 points per game. Fisher, a 6-0 senior, added 9.8 points and 6.6 rebounds per game with her strength and jumping ability inside. Costello, a 6-foot junior from Middletown, had one start and averaged 1.6 points per game.

Just how strong Shepherd is inside will depend on the play of the youthful guard corps. Any success will depend on how they handle the ball and pass in the offense.

"Turning the ball over is our biggest key," Runner said. "To be honest, I wouldn't change anything. You will be surprised when we play. The guards are playing well, but we still are looking for a balanced attack. What will make us dangerous will be that we can go inside or outside."

Out of all the guards, Tiffany Acker is the highest returning scorer at 4.2 points per game. She leads a contingent of six sophomores who will be key to the Rams' success. Shepherd lost shooter Andrea Kauffman for the season with a torn ACL.

Rebecca Frece, a 5-7 sophomore, has the most experience out of the group with 14 starts to her credit. Meanwhile, sophomore forward Laura Harkins averaged 8.9 points and 7.9 rebounds a game in 28 games, including 21 starts.

Shepherd has only two freshmen - guards Krissy Grosselin and Amanda Street - added to the roster this season. In a sense, the small recruiting class has helped the Rams get ready for the season.

"With only the two newcomers, we have been able to have most of our system in right now," Runner said. "We are at a point that we would usually be in in December."

The Rams have their work cut out for them, facing the buzzsaw called the WVC schedule. While Shepherd has one of the best teams in Runner's nine-year assistant and head coaching tenure, other teams have improved also.

"The women's side has grown so much," Runner said. "When we won the conference title in 1999, we had a record of 19-9. Now, that isn't going to be good enough. I love all the girls we have had in the program, but this team would beat the 1999 team hands down.

"But, as much as we have grown and got more talented, so has everyone else."

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