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SMC Basketball: Bender is prepared for season

Joe Meixell | Thursday, November 3, 2005

Charlie Weis isn’t the only new coach in South Bend trying to turn a down-and-out program around this year.

First-year head coach Steve Bender took over the Saint Mary’s women’s basketball team this season, and he wants to improve the Belles’11-15 record from last year.

Before coming to Saint Mary’s, Bender worked for 25 years at Buchanan High School in Michigan at various basketball coaching positions. The new coach is confident in his ability to adjust to his new position, despite not having any experience at the college level.

“Other than the shot clock, the only thing I have to change is teaching the girls the new game plan,” Bender said.

Bender’s new plan is an overhaul on both offense and defense. The Belles will utilize a new motion-style offense to score quickly with multiple defensive looks in order to contain their opponents.

Saint Mary’s also has been working on its team speed to convert defensive stops into quick turnovers. Bender has worked this fast-paced transition offense into practices, focusing on fast break points at most practices.

One of the biggest advantages Bender has in implementing his new schemes is the amount of freshman playing for the Belles – six in total. Bender was left with only three returning starters from last season’s team – senior Bridget Boyce, junior Bridget Lipke and Sophomore Allison Kessler.

But with the freshman players, including starting center Nicole Beier, Bender can shape their college games with his strategy.

“The main thing that has to be done is to get them used to up-tempo college basketball,” Bender said.

Even though tonight’s game is only a scrimmage, it still is important for the team, according to Bender.

“The team needs to improve over Saturday’s intra-squad game. We want [Bethel] to expose our weaknesses,” he said.

Boyce, last season’s second leading scorer and the highest-scoring player returning this season, understands the importance of the Bethel scrimmage.

“This is going to be a great learning experience for all the freshman on the team,” Boyce said. “I think we are going to surprise a lot of people out there with our new offense.”

Despite a disappointing season last year, the Belles cannot wait to start playing at 7 p.m. tonight to prove how much better they are. Boyce is confident the Belles will win and continue to succeed throughout this season.

“We know that we will be the team to beat this year,” Boyce said.