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SMC Basketball: Belles begin life without Kessler

Joe Meixell | Friday, November 21, 2008

Tonight begins a new era for Saint Mary’s basketball.

When the Belles take on Ohio Wesleyan tonight to open their season, they will do so without Alison Kessler, who graduated last spring as the program’s all-time scoring leader.

“There certainly was a void to fill after the graduation of Alison,” Belles coach Jen Henley said of Kessler, who holds five other school records. “But every program goes through that transition as your seniors graduate. The team has adjusted well.”

The Belles will be led this season by their four seniors – guards Meghan Conaty and Katie Rashid along with forwards Nicole Beier and Erin Newsom.

Newsom had six double-doubles last season, and she combined with junior forward Anna Kammrath to amass 551 points, and 432 rebounds last season.

“I expect us to have more depth in our program this season,” Henley said. “We need to improve our overall team defense and be more balanced in our offense from last season.”

The Belles will get a boost from junior guard Mary Lynn Carlson, who missed significant time with a knee injury last year. To combine with a strong veteran core, the team also has seven freshmen on the roster this season.

“Our freshmen need to learn our program and what we are trying to establish,” Henley said. “We have a very talented young group that will have the opportunity to contribute early for us.”

The Belles are coming off a fourth-place finish in the MIAA conference last season in which they went 13-13 overall, 8-8 in conference.

The MIAA preseason coaches’ poll picked Saint Mary’s to finish fourth again this season with Hope, Calvin and Albion predicted to finish atop the conference.

Tonight’s match-up with Ohio Wesleyan starts the Anderson College Tip-Off Tournament in Anderson, Ind.

“It’s tough to be specific since it’s the first game of the season for both teams,” Henley said. “The only stats we have are from last season. Those do not give an accurate view of a team’s potential.”

The Belles will play in either the tournament’s consolation or championship game on Saturday before their home opener against Wheaton on Tuesday at 6 p.m.