SMCM women’s hoops anxious to start campaign
Gibson hoping for another good season
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.