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Shepherd women's team hopes experience translates to wins

November 17, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - By Jodie Runner's estimates, the Shepherd University women's basketball season will be a take off of the old doctor's joke.

Take two and call us at the end of the season.

History proves that Runner's Rams are overachievers by West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference standards. This year, Shepherd is trying to improve on the improvement.

"(WVIAC coaches) always pick us to finish eighth in the conference and we usually finished two spots higher," said Runner, Shepherd's fifth-year coach, at the Rams' annual winter season media conference. "This year, they picked us to finish sixth, so we are looking at fourth."

It's not exactly scientific, but coincidence is enough to convince Runner.

"That's just my theory," she said.

The Rams might as well shoot for the stars this season. Even though Shepherd has only one senior (center Danielle Costello), it is loaded with experience. Six of the team's 11 players are juniors and there is only one freshman on the squad.

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"The team is the same as last year," Runner said. "The goal is that we want to win more. I want to win 20 games."

Even with experience, the Rams have some factors to address before they can reach 20 games, let alone fourth in the rugged WVIAC.

The starting point is with Costello and guard Rebecca Frece, the two captains.

"For us to have a good season, we are going to have to count on their leadership," Runner said. "That puts a heavy role on their shoulders, but it will be the key to winning."

Costello, of Middletown, Md., draws the start in the center slot after coming off the bench for most of her career. The 6-foot-2 Costello will get much more playing time, meaning she will need to be a top rebounder for the Rams. She averaged 4.5 rebounds in 7 1/2 minutes per game last season.

"Danielle always came off the bench and did a good job," Runner said. "This year she has more determination and she will be able to get in there and rip down rebounds."

Joining Costello on the inside will be Laura Harkin in the power forward slot while Camille Wilmer, the Rams' only freshman, will see considerable time.

"She will get a lot of minutes in the post," Runner said. "She has done a tremendous job in the post and is a different type of player in the post for us. She is more physical, not a finesse player like we have had."

Another inside player is Michelle Van Dyke, a player who has moved inside but still has the ability to shoot from the perimeter to cause problems for opposing defenses.

Frece will start the season on the sidelines with a fractured wrist, turning over the point guard duties to Tiffany Acker, who averaged 8.8 points and 2.1 assists per game while making 56 steals.

"Tiffany has done a great job," Runner said. "She had been splitting time with Becca."

Junior Molly Land takes her shooting talents to small forward slot, while Nylia Zamora will man the shooting guard spot.

"Molly is a good shooter and she gives us a good foundation because she keeps her head," Runner said. "Zamora is athletically unreal. She can run someone down and she does all the things you need from a guard."

Shepherd's secret weapon may be Andrea Kauffman, a 5-7 guard who missed the 2005-06 season with an ACL tear.

"She will surprise a lot of people," Runner said. "Nobody knows about her because she didn't play last year. She can shoot the ball with a quick release and she is very sneaky."

Shepherd will need the whole package in order to prove the WVIAC wrong again and reach that 20-win goal, beginning tonight when the Rams open the season at the California (Pa.) University tournament.

"Balance is the key," Runner said. "Everyone is aware of our guards and this large junior class. For them to do their best, my post players have to do what they can do.

"We need consistency. Charleston and Glenville are two nationally ranked teams, but they have lost some key players. We have to consistently win those 6-10 point games and come out as strong in the second half as we have in the first."

It could mean the difference of two places in the WVIAC standings.

"It's time," Runner said. "It's time for a 20-win season. They are ready."

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