In just her second year as the head coach of the Franklin & Marshall women's basketball team, Ashlee Courter turned the program around going from a 6-19 record the first season to a 19-7 mark last year and an appearance in the Centennial Conference Tournament for the first time since 2004. With the loss of just two players to graduation and the return of four seniors, the Diplomats are poised with the same confidence and focus heading into the 2008-09 season.
"Our expectations are very high this year and we are capable of doing great things on the court," said Courter. "Our seniors are a special group of talented young women and I am confident that they will lead us to achieve the goals we have set for ourselves."
Among the four seniors is returning two-time All-American and CC Player of the Year, Sarah Meisenberg. Last season, she led the conference in scoring with 18.7 points and in free-throw percentage (.789), while ranking second in assists (123), and steals (80) and third in field-goal percentage (.506). Meisenberg was named to the D3Hoops.com All-Mid-Atlantic Region second team and in her junior year became the 14th player in program history to reach 1,000 points.
Joining Meisenberg on the wing are seniors Miriam Marcis and Amanda Miceli. Marcis returns with her tremendous leadership ability and strong work ethic. She started in 23 out of 26 games last season while recording 70 rebounds, 36 assists and 25 steals. Marcis was also named to 2008 CC Academic Honor Roll. Miceli is anxious to start where she left off after suffering a season-ending injury just 11 contests in. Before getting hurt, she averaged 12.2 points and scored double figures in nine games.
The fourth senior, Cara Landolfi, brings the experience to the post position that features another upperclassman and two freshmen. Landolfi made her way into the starting lineup for the final 12 games and is looking to stay there to open the season. She ranked second on the team with 105 field goals, third in scoring with 9.6 points per game and fourth in rebounds (107). Sophomore Alison Menna saw significant playing time as a freshman, preparing to permanently stay in the top five her second year as a Diplomat. Her 6-1 height makes her the tallest on the team, helping her to lead the team in blocked shots (18) and average 5.0 rebounds per game last season. Newcomers Casey Downie and Emily Johnson will look to contribute points and rebounds under the hoop from the forward position.
Sophomore Amy Chabitnoy averaged 8.8 minutes off the bench last year and is one of the six players in line to play a substantial role at wing. She made 19 appearances in 26 games and recorded 16 steals to go along with seven assists. Freshman Megan Pauley and Kate Shaffer, a junior transfer from Millersville, are first-year players who are a good combination and work well with the upperclassmen.
Juniors Sara Wolman and Faith Meisenberg bring the most experience to the offense at the point guard spot. Wolman appeared in 23 games last season and ranked third in three-pointers made with 14, while Meisenberg saw time in eight games and recorded five points and five assists. Both are familiar and have an understanding of the teams focus to be the best they can be with two seasons of knowledge gained from Courter's direction. Freshman Allison Bauer has been making great strides in adapting to the speed and intensity at the college level. She will partner with the two returning letterwinners as the ball handlers. Her storied high school career and athleticism will add depth to the roster.
"I am excited about the combination of returners and first year players we have," said Courter. "They bring youthful enthusiasm, a completive attitude and a strong work ethic which will help us in our quest for the top spot."
The Centennial Conference is getting more competitive each year. Conference play is intense and every team must be mentally and physically ready for each opponent. Last season, the Diplomats shocked the conference and earned rights to host the CC Tournament. The experience of reaching the top of the league last year has taught the F&M players that wins are not just going to be handed to them. With the foundation laid and a team demand for increased commitment from the players, the Diplomats are ready to keep the program competing at the top.
To kick the season off, F&M will showcase its talent at home beginning with the Terry Greene Tip-Off Tournament. The Diplomats will face Shenandoah University from Virginia at 3 p.m. on Nov. 22.