Belles open season looking to replace seniors
Marek Mazurek | Thursday, November 13, 2014
As its season begins against No. 19 Wheaton on Saturday, Saint Mary’s will look to improve on last season’s 7-18 record.
Last season, the Belles lost six games by five points or less. Saint Mary’s coach Jennifer Henley said the Belles need to step up defensively in order to win more of those close games.
“My expectation for the season is to be a better defensive team,” Henley said. “We have a lot of new faces in the program, and we have seen a lot of improvement thus far.”
With the graduation of two-time all-MIAA guard Shanlynn Bias, the Belles leading scorer will be returning senior forward Ariana Paul. Paul, the lone senior on the team, started in all 25 of the Belles’ games last year, averaging 13.9 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. Paul’s role as the Belles’ primary scorer will be critical to the team’s success this season, Henley said.
“We certainly will miss both of our seniors from last year — Shanlynn Bias and Katherine Wabler,” Henley said. “We have asked everyone to step up their game this season to help fill those voids. We will be led by Ariana Paul at both ends of the floor.”
Paul will lead a supporting cast of junior forward Krista Knapke and junior guards Eleni Shea and Maddie Kohler, all of whom saw significant playing time last season. Henley said she is excited to see how these players fit into their roles.
“We have a good mix of returners on the roster that saw significant playing time,” Henley said. “Krista Knapke will lead us in the paint. I have moved Eleni Shea to a guard this season. Along with Shea, my two other juniors – Maddie Kohler and [guard] Sarah Macius – will look to contribute a lot for us, especially at the defensive end.”
Henley will enter her ninth season at the helm of Saint Mary’s. Henley holds the school record for the most wins in a season and coached the Belles to a spot in the MIAA finals in 2010. Under her leadership, the Belles have finished third in the MIAA in three consecutive seasons from 2009-2012.
The Belles face nationally ranked teams throughout the season, including Wheaton, No. 20 Carthage and conference rival No. 4 Hope. Henley said the schedule gives the team a chance to focus on improving itself before conference play.
“We have some very tough competition this season on our schedule,” Henley said. “Early on, our focus is on us. We have to take care of the little things and be more disciplined in order for us to be successful and continue to improve.”
Saint Mary’s opens its season against top-20 Wheaton this Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Angela Athletic Facility.