Shepherd women expect to win more than 7 games
In Coach Jenna Eckleberry’s first year as Shepherd’s women’s basketball leader, her team won the Mountain East Conference tournament championship, entered the NCAA Division II national tournament and even won a game in that event.
In her second year as Shepherd’s leader, her team went 7-22 and careened down the conference standings as the 2015-16 season went along.
Unlike the men’s division of the Mountain East, there are no national powers, no teams that can win 90 percent of their league games.
Shepherd can move upward in the standings without having to do a complete turnaround from a year ago.
But it can’t be the same inconsistent team of incomplete contributors it was.
There are no players to get 10 rebounds a game, although Liz Myers will likely claim at least eight a night.
While Shepherd’s best players are guards and undersized forwards, it has no real scoring, defensive or rebounding threat at center.
Guards Morgan Arden and Cara Mason will join with Myers to get more shots than any of the other players.
A starter as a freshman in 2015-16, Kari Lankford joins returnees Myers, Arden and Mason.
Teams with any quickness inside have made numerous trips to the foul line and outrebounded the Rams at every turn.
There are two new faces in the Shepherd backcourt rotation this season in Lauren Reed and Lindsey Bedregal.
A transfer from Glenville, Kayla Tibbs had to sit out all of last season but is now eligible and could force her way to the front of the list of newcomers. Tiffany McKinney and Liz Moormann might be reserves who provide valuable minutes.
Shepherd has never rebounded well enough to win games on the boards. And it has never been a versatile defensive team that could wreak havoc with fullcourt pressure or a halfcourt man-to-man.
Almost every season sees the Rams put the opposition on the foul line all too often. Turnovers were a constant obstacle to winning last season.
Shepherd must win the close games, especially at home. It must shoot better both from the field and foul line than it did last season.
Where will the steady contributions come from when the reserves are called upon?
This is a team that won’t challenge for any league laurels with just five players providing the positive statistics. The forwards and centers have to help out in some ways. If they don’t, then Shepherd may bubble up to the .500 level or even a little higher, but winning on the road will be difficult at best.