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Friday, March 09, 2007

MU women's hoop wrap up - look ahead for Saturday Press

To employ a baseball analogy, you'd have to say all the Monmouth University
women's basketball team lacked this season was a closer.
A few times when Monmouth had teams on the ropes it struggled or
failed to put them away.
Those few times proved to a few too many including Tuesday night's
Northeast Conference Tournament semifinal collapse at Sacred Heart.
And it also coughed up a game or two it should have won anyway.
All that said its sophomore-junior laden team still went
18-13 (10-8 Northeast Conference). It tied the 2002-2003 Hawks for the most
wins since those Monmouth 20-win juggernauts of the 1980's.
So just think what it could have done with a closer.
Saturday Monmouth will be watching
Sacred Heart and Robert Morris play in the 2007 Northeast Conference Tournament
championship game on national television ruing what might have been.
""It's frustrating,'' said Monmouth coach Michele Baxter. ""I felt we
should have been there.''
Monmouth certainly could have been there after rallying from a 15-point
half-time deficit Tuesday to storm to a nine-point over the defending NEC
Tournament champions with five minutes
But those nagging, late-game errors, a missed free throw here, a turnover there,
a flubbed shot attempt, haunted the
Hawks again in the 50-
46 setback.
Not including last weekend's NEC Tournament upset of fourth
-seeded Quinnipiac, which played
without injured leading scorer Erin Kerner, fifth-seeded Monmouth couldn't
get it done against the NEC's top rung teams.
It went 0-6 during the regular season
against NEC tri-champions Robert Morris (0-1), Long Island U. (0-2),
Sacred Heart (0-2), and also Quinnipiac (0-1).
But if experience is a teacher Monmouth hopes it has learned from its
duress well enough to next season challenge for its first NEC
Tournament championship since 1986-87.
While Robert Morris loses four of its five starters
that will play Saturday and Sacred Heart three seniors including two-time
NEC Player the Year Amanda Pape, the 2007-2008 Hawks bring back everyone
but seldom used senior Charisse Johnson.
Only Quinnipiac, which also returns its entire starting five and most of
its roster, will match Monmouth's returning experience from among this year's
top six in the NEC standings.
Injuries could be an issue for Monmouth.
Point guard Brianne Edwards, who played
well and courageously during the NECs with a meniscus tear, will have
surgery but is expected to be ready for her senior year.
More of a question mark is athletic forward Lakia Barber. Her sophomore
year ended in practice Monday with an ACL injury and her future status
is more uncertain.
Still, led by Edwards, the bulk of the Monmouth team that takes the court
next fall will be senior-junior dominated for the first time in several
Baxter said she feels the added year will prove
""We've had only one senior in the last two years and that was Niamh
(Dwyer, last year),''said Baxter referring to the former 1,200 point performer.
""It's definitely been a growing process,'' Baxter said.
There are several leading nominees to grow into a "closer's'' role - that player
or players who will produce
the timely late-game basket, clutch free throw, or the key rebound.
The group would
appear to at least include
Edwards, rising senior Veronica Randolph, rising juniors Jennifer Bender and Marisa Jimenez, or perhaps someone not yet on
the roster.
That could be incoming junior college transfer Marbely Montas, a 5-8
drive-and-dish point guard who led Union County College to a 29-5 record and the
2007 National Junior College Division II Region 19 title.
A graduate of Elizabeth High, school Montas averaged 16.7 points, 7.3
rebounds, 6.6 assists, and three steals this season for Union.
""She was the MVP of the Region, she's going to be an impact player,'' said
Baxter. ""She's a guard who'se a little bit more like a Niamh, a go to and
play-with-emotion type player.
""I think we've missed a little bit of that this year. And I believe it's
because we were young.''
Also arriving in Seprember will be two freshmen post players 6-2 Liz Kuderka and 6-4
Kuderka averaged 12 points and 10 rebounds for 10-8 Plainview-
N.Y. High
Schanuel tallied 12.5 points and 11.6 rebounds for Walkersville, Maryland
which took a 25-0 record into a Friday state semifinal game.
But overall, with a few exceptions, Monmouth won't be young any more the next time it suits up.
And there appears to be no one in the NEC with pedigree of those dominant St. Francis,
Pa. teams of the 1990's blocking its path.
The Hawks would seem to have the
talent, depth, and experience to make a serious 2008 NEC title run.
As long as they find a closer.




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