LYNDON CENTER, Vt. – Coming off a 3-20 season a year ago, the Lyndon women's basketball team will begin its return to respectability behind and mix of veterans and rookies as it heads into the 2014-15 season.
"The big things we need to focus on are defense and rebounding," said Head Coach Vinnie Maloney. "Right now we are concentrating on playing game-to-game and taking care of the task at hand. We don't want to push their focus beyond our next game because as young as we are we may get overwhelmed. Right now we are committed to playing game-to-game."
The Hornet roster features five returnees and seven first-year players. Despite the team's youth, Maloney is pleased with what his troops have brought to the practice floor in the pre-season.
"There's been a high degree in continuity in the way we play thus far," he said. "The kids come early, work hard and take criticism well. To be successful this season we need to defend better and do a better job of rebounding. The role of the point guard is not defined yet, but we have a few people we feel can fill that role."
The senior foursome of Emily Gray, Emily Slayton, Sarah Cornell and Britney Geoffrey will be asked to lead the team and make significant contributions in the season ahead. Gray averaged a team-high 11.0 points per game while Cornell collected 4.9 points and 3.2 rebounds per outing last season. Geoffrey grabbed 4.5 rebounds from her center spot in 2013-14 and Slayton, despite missing a few games due to injury, played her usual solid game from the two-guard position. This year she will begin the season at the point until such time as a few of the younger players develop.
Marley Harmon, a 5-foot-9 sophomore center also returns and will look to improve upon her 2.8 points and 4.1 rebounds a game.
"Gray and Slayton are our two leaders and when they aren't in practice is shows," said Maloney. "Neither really needs to be a superstar; they just need to knock down their shots. Perhaps the biggest surprise has been the play of Britney Geoffrey. She is more of an offensive threat now and she has the confidence to go along with it."
The 2014-15 season will mark the return of former Blue Mountain Union Standout Aimee Thompson, who sat out last season with health issues, and the addition of St. Johnsbury Academy grad Allison Brown, who did come out for the team last year.
"We're expecting a lot out of Aimee," said Maloney. "She'll play both the guard and forward spot; and that will be dictated by the game. Allison has a high basketball IQ and shoots well. We need to get and keep her healthy."
Leading the freshman class is Abby Salvadore a 5-8 guard out of Portsmouth, N.H. and 6-1 center Mikayla Hodge from nearby Newbury, Vt. Add in the talents of 5-9 guard Brittney LaFreniere and 5-6 Bianca Verret, Lyndon begins to take on the appearance of an North Atlantic Conference contender in the not-too-distant future.
"Abby is a very smart player and brings a different element to us," said Maloney. "Mikayla, on the other hand, still needs to work on her game offensively. She listens, knows the game and we'll be asking more from her as the season progresses. Brittney is tough, hard-nosed kid who shoots well and Bianca is an under-sized post player who is physical. She'll need to focus more on defense to help us out."
The freshmen guard tandem of Mikayla Epps and Maelily Robison round out the roster and will get increased minutes as they develop.
"Both are very athletic and pick things up well," said Maloney. "They are committed to what we are trying to do here."
As with all the season he has been at the helm of the Hornets, Maloney's goal is to earn a berth in the NAC playoffs. Contrary to years past, the task has gotten more difficult to achieve as the NAC has shortened its playoff field from eight to six teams.
"Sure, we'd like to make the playoffs, but to get there we need to play every game as if it's our last," he said. "As far as we are concerned, we have 25 'last games' on our schedule. We work on growing and developing in our non-conference games, but we need to be ready for conference. Seven-to-nine wins should get us in. With the confidence our seniors have and the abilities our younger players bring to the table, getting a playoff berth is not too far-fetched."
By BILL JOHNSON, Assistant AD/SID