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SMC BASKETBALL: Three top seniors lead team

Joe Meixell | Thursday, November 17, 2005

On the surface, the 2005-06 Belles basketball team features three seniors in unfamiliar leadership roles.

The squad lost four seniors from last year’s team and saw the addition of a new coach this summer. What’s more, two of the three seniors have never played in a regular-season game for the Belles.

But that doesn’t mean these seniors are poorly suited to be team leaders.

Team captain Bridget Boyce, a second team All-MIAA selection last season, has played since she was a freshman and knows the ins and outs of the basketball program.

Shelly Bender is new to Belles basketball but just completed her fourth season of varsity volleyball. As a middle hitter on this year’s team, she was third on the team in kills.

Although it is just Bender’s first year on the basketball team, Boyce calls her an “excellent natural leader.”

Nicole Tucker, a guard, has also attended Saint Mary’s for four years. Though this is her first year with the team, she has helped make the college transition for the team’s six freshmen as easy as possible.

“The seniors are leading by example and working very hard in practice,” Belles coach Steve Bender said. “That’s really all I can ask for.”

And even though he has implemented a new offensive system, Bender said the Belles “are doing a terrific job and learning it very quickly,” thanks in no small part to the seniors.

“[The seniors] are very athletic so we should be able to play a fast-paced game,” Bender said.

Boyce admitted she sometimes feels like a newcomer herself in the new, up-tempo style of play. She said she is excited as the team heads into its first regular season game against Hanover this Friday.

Although the Belles are ranked just seventh out of nine in the MIAA Coaches’ Poll, Boyce and her teammates remain optimistic about their chances.

“I feel like, with the new offense, we can really surprise a lot of people this year,” Boyce said. “We’re looking forward to it.”

Along with the three seniors, the Belles have two other returning players – guards Bridget Lipke and Alison Kessler.

Bender said the five veterans give the team a solid foundation upon which to build a cohesive team.

“We’re anticipating a solid, exciting season,” Bender said.

Two seasons ago, Saint Mary’s increased its win total by four to seven.

Last season, they duplicated that feat, winning 11 games, including eight in the MIAA.