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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Life after Capra: 2008-2009 Women’s Basketball Preview

Published: November 14, 2008
Section: Sports

For the third straight year, the Brandeis women’s basketball squad advanced into the second round of the NCAA and they were bounced out at the hands of a more athletic squad – this time it was Kean College. This time around, Coach Carol Simon’s squad faces a trickier path to the NCAA’s as the UAA is an unforgiving division and the team will be without graduated seniors, starting point guard Kiersten Holgash ’08 and the number two all-scoring leader, Jaime Capra ’08. With two big holes to fill, Coach Simon is looking at taking advantage of depth.

“You know, you don’t replace you know a Jamie or a Kiersten,” Coach Simon stated. “That’s just the other players realizing what they have to do and getting better by, you know it’s almost by committee. You know replacing Jamie’s whatever, 15 points (15.2) is a lot of points for someone to step in so again if you have, you know three or four kids who can help that loss of 15 points, you’re okay. Our goals are still the NCAA’s you know, not just to be in it but to win it and I think that’s a realistic goal for us.”

Key returns start at shooting guard where Jessica Chapin ’10 enjoyed marked all-around improvement in her second year of action – averaging 10.2 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. These totals helped her earn second team All-UAA Honors. Assisting Chapin in the back court and likely taking over point guard duties is the lightning quick classmate, Lauren Rashford ’10. Rashford missed the first semester of the season due to illness but returned to average 4.1 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.3 steals per game – her 23 steals were third highest on the team. This year Chapin will be sharing the captainship with forward Cassidy Dadaos ’09. The six foot Californian finished fourth on the team in rebounding, pulling down 4.0 boards per game. Looking to provide key depth behind Rashford and Chapin will be three point sharp-shooter Carmela Breslin ’10 and second years Diana Cincotta ’11 and Mia DePaolo ’11.

The strength of Coach Simon’s squad, however, comes in her forwards. The tall trio of Amanda Wells ’09, Lauren Orlando ’09 and Dadaos has provided Simon with a variety of options and potential mismatches to exploit. Orlando finished last season behind only Capra in points per game with 11.1 and led the squad with 26 blocked shots. Strong accomplishments considering that Orlando was stepping into the sizeable gap left by Brandeis’s all-time scorer Caitlin Malcolm ’07. Amanda Wells is the most athletic of the trio but, has been hobbled by injuries, but healthy now, will look to improve upon her 3.7 points and 2.6 rebounds per game. All three will be counted on provide a presence out there for the team to hopefully succeed.

“There’s high expectations for both of them (Orlando, Dadaos) and Amanda Wells,” Simon explained, “you know you’ve got three post players with a lot of experience and where they have to lead the team. People know about them so it’s a matter of them not maintaining their talent but continuing to get better.”

Kasey Gieschen ’10 established herself as a defensive presence while second year Amber Strodthoff ’11 showed great promise, tying for second on the team in rebounds with 4.3 per game and her career high 13 points against Southern Maine in the NCAA tournament helped lead the Judges to the massive come from behind 74-71 win.

After watching the Judges get routed by the more athletic Kean Cougars, Coach Simon has turned to a more athletic recruiting class while adding even more height to the bench with four of the five rookies at six feet or higher. One player to keep an eye is Granite State native Shannon Hassan ’12 who was second person in her high school to score 1,000 points and was named first-team All-State by three different organizations.

“I think our program is in a good state.” Simon said, “Coming up against a Kean University who is an extremely athletic team, I think that’s something where we had to see where our deficiencies were so by doing that, we tried to get more athletic. We’ve always been a big, banging, physical team which I still think we are but I think with the freshman coming in, we’ve added some athleticism as well.”

Assisting Coach Simon on the bench is second year assistant Scott Foulis. The Judges open the season at home on November 17 as they play host to WPI, a match that Simon expects to be anything but a cake walk especially after the last time the teams faced each other – a narrow 53-47 escape on December 4th of last year.

“It’ll be a tough game, WPI is a good team. They’re well coached, they return a lot of players, they’re very scrappy, they’re very good defensively, they’re well disciplined, they don’t beat themselves. It’s a team that doesn’t beat themselves. You know last year was a close game so I expect this year will probably be another close game.”

Losing a player like Jamie Capra is tough for any program to recover from – prognosticators have Brandeis ranked fifth in the UAA but after last season, Coach Simon is optimistic about the state of the program for as she observed, it’s not just about one player and Brandeis has the benefit of having slashers at the guard and bangers down low. A fourth straight trip back to the NCAA’s however will involve finding that balance and if the equilibrium between outside and inside is achieved, the Judges are a squad that could well surprise. Ultimately the NCAA’s may be out of reach next year but this is a team that is not going to go down without a fight.