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SMC Basketball: Henley controls Belles court

Tim Dougherty | Saturday, August 19, 2006

Saint Mary’s emerged from a busy off-season with new head coach Jennifer Henley in charge of the Belles as they head toward a new position on the Division III landscape.

Henley comes to Saint Mary’s with five years of head coaching experience at Division III Mount Union College in Alliance, Ohio, where her teams went 43-87 with two seasons at .500 or better in 2002-03 and 2004-05.

Athletic Director Lynn Kachmarik said Henley is the first coach to take over the Saint Mary’s program with prior college head coaching experience.

“I am incredibly excited to begin this season,” Henley said. “My goals are to build on last season’s success and improve upon our MIAA finish. I want our student-athletes to reach their full potential both on and off the court.”

Henley will be taking over a squad that finished 11-15, including a third-place finish in the conference after being picked to place seventh in the nine-team league. The 2005-06 performance set a new school record for league wins since Saint Mary’s joined the MIAA in 1997, earning former head coach Steve Bender MIAA Coach of the Year honors in his first year with the Belles.

Though the decision not to retain Bender as head coach surprised some in the community, Kachmarik says it was a result of Bender and the school “moving in different directions,” as Saint Mary’s took a bold turn when it hired Henley.

“We have elevated the position from part-time to full-time, which allowed us to do a national search for the first time for our basketball coaching position,” Kachmarik said.

“[Henley’s] values and goals for her program were a great match with our goals as a college and department. My expectations are for the basketball team to continue to climb in the MIAA basketball rankings and continue to have great academic success as well. I want our team to have fun while working to their potential as student-athletes and role models on campus.”

Henley resigned from the top spot at Mount Union College to follow her husband’s career, which involved a move to Florida and a stint as an elementary school teacher, but Kachmarik said she has found a home at Saint Mary’s.

“I believe that Coach Henley will be able to build a very successful basketball program over the next few years,” Kachmarik said. “Any time during transition, change can be positive and I think she will bring positive changes to the program immediately and her success will be measured on and off the basketball court.”

Henley said she will bring “an up-tempo coaching style that centers around fundamentals.”

Henley played at Ohio Northern University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in sports management and communication arts in 1997, before earning a master’s degree in athletic administration while a graduate assistant at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa.