By Derek Turner
The pieces are in place for the Central Connecticut Women’s Basketball team to make a run at a Northeast Conference title; they just need to stay healthy.
Head Coach Beryl Piper says she is excited for the season start and says the depth of this year will play a key role in how far this team can go.
“We have good depth which we didn’t have much of last year,” said Piper. “I think that’s going to make us better. We’re going to be stronger in the guard spots and our post players have more experience this year.”
The team is full of depth and experience. With the entire starting lineup returning and seven upper classmen on the roster the Blue Devils have no lack of leadership.
Point guards Jess Babe (2nd Team All-Conference selection last season) and Kaley Watras are leaders on the court by definition, but as coach Piper put it, they have to be leaders. Jaclyn Babe, Jess’s sister, also describes Lauren Arbogast as a vocal leader on the court.
Experience runs almost all the way through this team. Due to many injuries last season a lot of the freshman received plenty of minutes which add experience to the bench. This year’s freshmen look to make an immediate impact as well.
Raven Makins, Kayla Miller and Nicole Ferguson are three freshmen Piper pointed out as having the ability to make an immediate impact.
“Until we start playing in games with freshmen, you never know. They’re working hard in practice and they’re doing good things,” said Piper.
Last season the Blue Devils saw a lot of scoring opportunities coming in transition when they were running the floor, so the coaching staff has made a point this preseason to emphasize their speed and work to their strengths. In practice, Piper will set 17 seconds on the shot clock and make the players think to score. The goal is to take more shots than their opponents, something Piper said they didn’t always do last season.
“If we’re going to shoot the ball more, obviously we have to get all over the glass and dominate on the boards,” said Piper. “Going against the guys and getting offensive rebounds against the guys is good for us.”
CCSU’s all-time blocked shots leader, Kirsten Daamen returns for her senior season after spending the summer playing in Europe with the Dutch National Team. Her coach knows that her expectations are very high for the coming season, but she has the experience and the playing time to back it up and continue to be a force in the Blue Devil front court.
Daamen is not the only tall body Central has in the post Johanna Fisher, Amanda Harrington and Jameilia Dillon can sub in without losing much. Arbogast can also play the post if they want to go small and become a quicker, more defensive team, but she’s not even that small at 6’2”.
The Blue Devils have a tough out of conference schedule to begin the season. After URI they take on UMass and Hartford in New Britain and then travel to Texas. They finish the non-conference slate with the University of Miami Holiday Tournament with a game versus Miami and either Wisconsin or Delaware State. Northeast Conference play begins January 5 at Robert Morris and the first home conference game will be played January 12 against Bryant.
“I’m looking forward to getting into games and not just practice, have something to practice for,” said Jaclyn Babe, last season’s leading scorer with 15.9 points per game.
The team is almost ready for the season to start and make a run at the NEC title and strive for the NCAA tournament, a goal Jaclyn Babe said she would love to achieve, especially since this may be her and her fellow seniors last time ever playing competitive basketball.
“I feel like we have a lot of little intangibles to be successful this year and hopefully everything is on our side,” said Piper.