SMCM women’s hoops anx­ious to start cam­paign

Gib­son hop­ing for an­other good sea­son

Maryland Independent - - Sports - By MICHAEL REID mreid@somd­ Twit­ter: @SOMDhab­s­fan

In just four days, St. Mary’s Col­lege of Mary- land’s women’s bas­ket- ball team will tip off the 2016-17 sea­son against Wash­ing­ton, D.C.’s Catholic Univer­sity and head coach Crys­tal Gib­son is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the usual feel­ings of trep­i­da­tion.

“I’m al­ways ex­cited go­ing into a new year with new per­son­nel,” said Gib­son, who is en­ter­ing her fifth sea­son be­hind the bench, “and we have a lot of re­turn­ers as well, but ev­ery year’s dif­fer­ent and ev­ery year’s a dif­fer­ent level of ex­cite­ment.”

Gib­son has rea­son to be ex­cited as the Sea­hawks re­turn four starters which she said gives the team “a level of con­sis­tency.”

Last year, the Sea­hawks were 8-18 (6-12 in the Cap­i­tal Ath­letic Con­fer­ence). Seven of their de­feats — five of which were con­fer­ence games — were by seven or fewer points. One of those losses was a 58-55 set­back to then-No. 17 Christo­pher New­port (Va.) on Feb. 17.

“I don’t nec­es­sar­ily look at [last year] from a record stand­point, I look at it as an im­prove­ment through­out the year and I think we saw that from the be­gin- ning to the end,” Gib­son said. “We’re just mov­ing each year to get bet­ter and im­prove on that.”

St. Mary’s was elim­i­nat- ed in the first round of the CAC play­offs fol­low­ing a 78-48 de­feat to the Mary Wash­ing­ton (Va.). It was the Sea­hawks’ sev­enth straight ap­pear­ance in the post­sea­son, which Gib­son said “shows con­sis- tency in our pro­gram.”

The Sea­hawks will be thrown right into the fire this sea­son with a sea- son-open­ing matchup at Catholic on Tues­day.

“They’re al­ways a tough op­po­nent,” Gib­son said of the Car­di­nals, who were 17-10 last sea­son. “They’re a con­sis­tent NCAA tour­na­ment team and that will be a great gauge of where we are.”

St. Mary’s will host the Dan Greene Memo­rial Tour­na­ment on Nov. 18 and 19. The Sea­hawks will face Delaware Val­ley (Pa.) in the opener Nov. 18, while the other open­ing round will be an all-Penn- syl­va­nia matchup be­tween Dick­in­son Col­lege against Mes­siah Col­lege. The con- so­la­tion and cham­pi­onship games will be played the fol­low­ing day.

Then it’s back on the road with con­fer­ence games against Sal­is­bury (Nov. 30) and Mary­mount Univer­sity (Va.) (Dec. 3) be­fore its reg­u­lar sea­son home opener Dec. 5 vs. Shenan­doah (Va.). The Sea­hawks will host Mary Wash­ing­ton two days later.

“That will be tough,’ Gib­son said of fac­ing Sal­is­bury and Mary­mount. “It’s hard to play in an­other teams’ environment, but it’s some­thing we’ll be used to af­ter go­ing on the road a good amount.”

St. Mary’s lost just two play­ers — guards Anna McClain and Tori Pof­fen­berger — to grad­u­a­tion.

McClain ap­peared in 26 games — and started 23 — and av­er­aged 3.6 points, 4.7 re­bounds and 1.8 as­sists per con­test.

“She re­ally pro­vided a lead­er­ship qual­ity for us and it was nice hav­ing some­one on your pro­gram who knows how you like things run,” Gib­son said of the three-year starter and four-year let­ter-win­ner. “Re­plac­ing her in our line- up will be a huge task, you can’t nec­es­sar­ily re­place her right away.”

Pof­fen­berger ap­peared in nine games in her only sea­son with the Sea­hawks but re­turns to the team as a stu­dent as­sis­tant.

“It was her first year in our pro­gram so she didn’t nec­es­sar­ily con­trib­ute on the court, but she con­trib­uted off the court in a lead­er­ship stand­point,” Gib­son said. “For her it was a lead­er­ship thing [we’re go­ing to miss].”

Gib­son is ex­cited about the ar­rivals of new­com­ers Chris­tine McKee, Mas­sachusetts-born Jamey Mathisen and Gar­rett Com­mu­nity Col­lege trans­fer Ash­ley Downs.

“Chris­tine’s go­ing to pro­vide us a lot of ener- gy and a lot of min­utes at the 4 po­si­tion (guard) this year,” Gib­son said. “Jamey will play guard and see lot min­utes early on and Ash­ley should pro­vide a lot of scor­ing and op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

Gib­son said the Sea­hawks’ level of suc­cess this year will be based on a lot of fac­tors.

“Ob­vi­ously you have to have our health and at the be­gin­ning of the year you’re al­ways strug­gling with that to make sure you have a healthy lineup,” she said. “We’re in that po­si­tion now where we’re try­ing to get some play­ers back healthy and once we do that we’ll be de­vel­op­ing a level of trust with the team, just try­ing to get ev­ery­body on the same page. Our sea­son’s a marathon, not a sprint, so we’ll be build­ing each week, each month to be get­ting bet­ter to­ward the play­offs. For us to have a suc­cess­ful sea­son it’s go­ing to mean that we’ve come to­gether as a team, we’ve bonded as a unit and we have a high level of trust.”

Gib­son said her big­gest con­cern at this point is team chemistr y.

“I think we have unity from hav­ing played to­gether, but un­til you get out there and play against other teams on a con­sis- tent ba­sis you’re never go­ing to know where you are,” she said. “I think that’s where we are now, but that’s ev­ery year. When it comes down to it, I think we have a de­cent level of depth but that will be tested early with the tough op­po­nents we play.”

Gib­son said she’d like the Sea­hawks — who peren­ni­ally fin­ish among the top five or six teams— to be among the top four this sea­son.

“That’s been a goal of ours,” she said. “I’d like to host a play­off game here in our arena, which would be amaz­ing to get our fans out. That’s what we’re work­ing to­ward and we need to be .500 or above, so ev­ery game in our con­fer­ence will be tough and ev­ery game’s go­ing to mean a ton. By the time we get to the open­ing game we’ll have been work­ing for four weeks com­pet­ing against our­selves, so it’ll be fun to go out there and go up against some­one else.”


Ju­nior guard Kerri Kline started all 26 games for the Sea­hawks and av­er­aged a team-high 14.4 points per game.

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