Last season was disappointing for the Eagles. They began the season with three starters back from a team that went 23-7 in 1997-98 and had the highest power ranking of any team not invited to that season's NCAA tournament. They then opened last season 5-0 and 7-2. However, they wound up with their worst record in Colonial Athletic Association play since 1993-94, when they went 3-11, and they start this season with a seven-game losing streak.
The good news from all of that is the Eagles have their two top players, juniors Kate Miller and Jina Lewis, returning. The bad news is they need to replace almost everyone else.
"There are a lot of question marks hanging over our heads right now, both over our team and as individuals," Coach Jeff Thatcher said.
Miller played both guard positions last season but will be counted on more at the point this season.
"She's got a knack for putting the ball in the net in a number of ways," Thatcher said. "I've challenged her to have more assists and pass better this season, and make the players around her better."
The mystery is who among those players should engender the most confidence. Senior Melanie Morris will start at shooting guard and sophomore Hollie Steinman will start at small forward. Both played sparingly last season.
Lewis again will be counted on for rebounding, but her credentials as a scorer (36 percent shooting last season) are not established. Neither is the health of junior center Latisha Irwin, who missed all but 10 games last year with various injuries, including a torn knee ligament.
The Eagles have six freshmen among their 14 players, and Thatcher said any of them could be a candidate for playing time. Guards Erin Brady and Christina Black (Elizabeth Seton) are likely to back up Miller and Morris.
Last season: 11-16, 4-12 Colonial Athletic Association.
Coach: Jeff Thatcher (11th season, 205-135; 14th season overall, 270-149).
Top returning players: G Kate Miller, 5-8, Jr. (led CAA in scoring at 15.6 ppg, first-team all-CAA); F Jina Lewis, 6-1, Jr. (7.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg); G Hollie Steinman, 5-11, Soph. (10.5 minutes per game, 2.5 ppg, 2.7 rpg); G Melanie Morris, 5-8, Sr. (11 mpg 2.7 ppg); F Jamie Dowd, 6-0, Jr. (3.1 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 7.8 mpg); F-C Latisha Irwin, 6-0, Jr. (1.8 ppg, missed 17 games with a knee injury last season).
Key departures: F Kari Gaskins (15.3 ppg, second-team all-CAA); F-C Kim Gombola (8.8 ppg, eighth on school's career list in rebounds and blocks); G Nichole Grant (7.1 ppg, 3.2 apg).
New faces: G Christina Black, 5-6, Fr. (Elizabeth Seton); G Erin Brady, 5-7, Fr. (Weatherly, Pa.); F April Brooks, 6-0, Fr. (Irving, Tex.); G Jaye Marolla, 5-8, Fr. (Midlothian, Va.); F-G Maria Werries, 5-10, Fr. (Pittsburgh); F Elizabeth Widman, 6-0, Soph. (Sweden).
19 Fairleigh Dickinson*, 7
20 Murray State or Morgan State*, 5 or 7
23 Western Illinois, 7
30 at UMBC, 7
3 vs. Gonzaga**, 7
4 vs. Texas Southern or New Mexico**, 7 or 9
9 Coppin State, 7
12 Central Florida, 2
19 Georgetown, 2
21 at Navy, 7:30
7 at George Mason, 7
9 Virginia Commonwealth, 2
14 UNC Wilmington, 7
21 East Carolina, 7
23 Old Dominion, 2:30
28 at Richmond, 7
30 at William & Mary, 2
4 at UNC Wilmington, 7
6 at East Carolina, 2
11 George Mason, 7
13 at Old Dominion, 2
18 at James Madison, 7:30
20 Richmond, 2
24 at Cincinnati, 6
27 at Va. Commonwealth, 2
1 William & Mary, 7
5 James Madison, 2
**Lobo Shootout in Albuquerque