MIDDLETOWN, Pa. – The entirety of Penn State Harrisburg's athletic program is facing something different this year. That door you hear opening is the entranceway to the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC). The Lions' women's basketball team, just like every other program this season, is entering uncharted territory after leaving the friendly confines of the North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) for the new, more competitive league.
Luckily for the Blue & White, the team's top two leading scorers from a year ago return this winter. Sophomore Mercedes Copeland (Reading, Pa. / Reading) led the team with a 15.2 points-per-game scoring average. Junior sharpshooter Miranda Zeanchock (Carrolltown, Pa. / Cambria Heights) is also back and she will look to repeat her 14.7 points-per-game effort from last season. Speedy point guard Hannah Jorich (Middletown, Pa. / Middletown Area) returns for her junior year while underclassmen in sophomores Jasmine Yanich (Harrisburg, Pa. / Susquehanna Township) and Kiara Carter (Bronx, N.Y. / Milton Hershey) will also play larger roles on the court this year.
Much of Penn State Harrisburg's success this season will rely on the maturation of a group of talented newcomers, including two freshmen and a junior transfer. Kaitlyn Carmo (Palmyra, Pa. / Palmyra Area) brings versatility to the Lions' frontcourt while Rebecca Bailey (Tobyhanna, Pa. / Notre Dame of East Stroudsburg) adds depth to the point guard spot. The ladies also gain some much needed size down low with the addition of Rachel Moyer (Carlisle, Pa. / Cumberland Valley). All three young ladies look poised to see plenty of playing time and make an immediate impact from the get go.
According to sixth-year head coach Ross Patrick, the ladies have already begun to gel and that team chemistry could prove to be the difference between a CAC playoff berth and being labeled an also-ran. The Lions tip-off their 2013-14 season on Friday night, Nov. 15 when they take part in Buffalo State's season-opening tournament.
That door is open. Here we go...
Penn State Harrisburg Women's Basketball:
Head Coach: Ross Patrick (sixth season)
2012-13 Record: 18-9, season ended in the NEAC championship tournament semifinal round…
Key Returners: junior Miranda Zeanchock, sophomore Mercedes Copeland, junior Hannah Jorich, sophomore Jasmine Yanich, sophomore Kiara Carter…
Key Newcomers: freshman Kaitlyn Carmo, freshman Rebecca Bailey, junior Rachel Moyer…
Team Captains: Undecided…
Circle the date: Wednesday, Dec. 11 v. Frostburg State…
- Penn State Harrisburg faced off against exactly one CAC opponent a year ago – the Bobcats of Frostburg State. The Lions led for nearly the entire first half and into the second before the Bobcats made a late push to steal the victory on the Blue & White's home court. This season, Frostburg pays a visit to the Capital Union Building early in the season and the Lions will be looking for a bit of retribution. The contest comes early on the ladies' conference slate and should also have implications on playoff seeding after the New Year. You don't want to miss this one.
Patrick, entering his sixth season as the Lions' head coach, was asked about his squad's upcoming 2013-14 season. His responses are below.
PENN STATE HARRISBURG: Who do you think will be this year's impact players?
ROSS PATRICK: This season presents many unique opportunities for players to step into new roles. We have two returning all-conference players in Mercedes Copeland and Miranda Zeanchock but with this year's freshman class, along with a few upperclassmen additions, we are hoping to create a lot of competition that causes different players to excel. Two freshmen who will be starters for us are Rebecca Bailey and Kaitlyn Carmo, along with junior transfer Rachel Moyer. Bailey is a versatile point guard who is acclimating well to the team and Carmo is a do everything player that can shoot the ball on the arc as well as sit in the post. Moyer is a force inside that blends agility and power into a very physical presence. A couple of new girls off the bench that will contribute are guards Ana Edmondson and Molly Burke. Both can put it on the floor and light it up from beyond the arc. Kiyana Carter and Paulette Williams will also work in at the forward position and two other freshmen in Carly Kovin and Katie Schwenk will provide an added physical presence in the low post.
How would you define your role as head coach heading into your sixth year?
As the head coach of the women's basketball program I am always humbled that I get to do this for a profession. This season is an historic year in our program's history as we join the CAC and this freshman class embodies what it takes to compete in this conference - talent and a work ethic. Each day I am around these athletes I realize what amazing individuals they are both on and off the court. I can't wait to start coaching in games with these players because their character and desire to improve is extremely motivating for me as a coach.
What are your personal goals for the team as coach?
First and foremost, we want to compete. We want our opponents to know that we are a team to take seriously, that you must prepare for us and that we are not going to back down.
What are your team goals for the upcoming season?
If we do the things mentioned above then we will achieve our next goal of becoming a playoff team in our first year in the CAC and once we make the playoffs we want to compete to win.
What are some of the team's strengths you can identify now that the preseason is coming to an end?
They have a desire to learn, they have a desire to put forth effort, they have the ability to put team before self and we have the pieces to play various types of basketball; up-tempo half court man-to-man zone. We have players for all variations we need to play regardless of what other teams throws at us.
What have you guys been focusing on during preseason practices?
Effort and winning the possession. Not being afraid to fail and understanding that failure is part of achieving success.
Which teams do you expect to be your toughest competition this season?
Our league is one of the top three women's basketball conferences in the country and there are no easy games. Any night any team can step up and win regardless of who is favored on paper. Our non-conference schedule is just as challenging and is highlighted by Messiah College in our home opener. Our goal in the non-conference slate was to get our team appropriately prepared for what to expect come the CAC portion of our schedule.
What are your expectations for the upcoming season?
If we can find a way to connect through relationships, our individual talents will become an incredible team talent that will enable us to compete with any team on any night but it all starts with our individual accountability towards each other.