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Young and hungry: URI Women’s Basketball looking to its freshmen

November 9, 2011 – 11:19 AM


The Playbook: Year 3 

An occasional series about University of Rhode Island Women’s Basketball Head Coach Cathy Inglese and her quest to turn around a program.

By Laura Pappano

The URI Women’s Basketball team opens the season Friday at the University of Delaware and enters Year Three of the Inglese Era squarely in rebuilding mode.

“We will live and die with a young team,” Head Coach Cathy Inglese said last week from her office in the Ryan Center. With last year’s seniors gone – including scoring powerhouse Captain Megan Shoniker – and senior talent Lara Gaspar out for the season with a torn ACL, five freshmen recruits, says Inglese, “will play a lot.”

(The five freshmen are: Rhode Island native Corinne Coia a 6-4 forward; guard Teneka Whittaker; guard Megan Straumann; guard Sydney Lewis; and guard Marie Byrnes.)

Injuries are a challenge in every sport and for every team (last year recruit Emilie Cloutier was out) and, some suggest, are becoming an epidemic in college sports as more players start younger and play year round. (Article here). Despite a spate of pre-season injuries — ankles, a concussion, strains — Inglese says this year’s recruits bring real potential.

“This is the best class of players we have brought in at URI,” says Inglese. Building a program, in other words, is just that — building. You don’t go from attracting fair recruits to luring superstars overnight, says Inglese. “Each year I try to bring in a class that is better.”

Young means certain things. For example, says Inglese, don’t expect lots of mid-game adjustments; the goal is to scout well and set a strong game plan in advance. In games and practice, she says, you emphasize basics – and repetition. During games, players will look to the sidelines — not, say, a senior leader on the court — for guidance.

“We as a staff can’t assume anything,” says Inglese.  “We have to be the ones directing them and reinforcing on a continual basis. We need to make sure we are communicating what our expectations are.”

In practices, assistant coach Stephanie Tobey is pressing for consistency in effort and skills. She wants them to “understand what it means to come everyday and bring a complete a focus and be in the zone.” And there are constant reminders of a basic directive: “Chin the ball” to keep it from opponents.

Who will be a scoring machine? Unclear. Who will emerge as a key player? Wait and see.

That’s part of the fun.

What is apparent is that these kids are eager. They have a strong work ethic and are pushing the whole team. “My assistants are out there everyday with kids who want to come to practice early or come in between classes. That never happened my first year or so,” says Inglese, adding that more players are also asking to watch extra film.

So what will the season look like?

“We are going to be a work in progress,” says Inglese. “That will be frustrating, and at times, exciting.”


URI staff members Chris Passmore, Cathy Inglese, Cindy Blodgett, Stephanie Tobey, Nerlande Nicholas.



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