Building a foundation

Carolyn Brown & Stephen Buszka

Last season, the women’s basketball team finished 21-11 (9-7 Big East), marking the fifth time in the last six years that the Wildcats have won over 20 games. They went on to the WNIT, where they advanced to the third round before falling to Western Kentucky, and recorded Villanova’s seventh consecutive postseason appearance. Expectations are mixed, and the focus of this year’s team is more on improving and working toward next year than winning this year. This year looks to be a learning experience for the young squad with a focus on improving and gaining experience for future seasons.”I don’t really have expectations,” Perretta said. “This team, this year, is one of the first teams in about six years I don’t really have expectations for in wins and losses.”The women lost four senior starters and graduated a total of five players, resulting in a young team with limited experience for this season. In fact, the team has lost two-thirds of its scoring and half of its rebounding due to graduation.To fill the void, the team will need to lean on the four veterans from last year who are the only returnees who played more than 10 minutes a game.Senior forward Jackie Adamshick is the team’s only returning starter. She had her best season two years ago when she averaged 13.2 points per game. Last year, although her scoring dropped off, she was still second on the team with 10.7 points per game. Her presence down low and her ability to clean the boards may be more important to the team than her scoring. She has led the team in rebounding for the past two years and will probably do so again this year.The only other returning ‘Nova letter-winner who received a decent amount of play time last year is junior forward Stacie Witman. Witman, red-shirt sophomore center Lisa Karcic and red-shirt sophomore guard Siobhan O’Connor will be expected to fill leadership roles this season. Witman, who earned minutes in all 32 games and four starts, has the second-most experience, behind Adamshick, with 531 minutes logged from last year. In her 16 minutes per game she contributed 4 points per game to the team’s scoring. As the team’s second returning lead scorer, this number will need to improve.Karcic, who had one more start but fewer minutes than Witman, was a solid defensive player, logging 18 steals in just 406 minutes of play. This ratio was second best on the team.O’Connor, the shortest member of the team at 5 feet 6 inches, will have to find ways to score despite her height. She managed only 61 points in 378 minutes and will certainly need to improve on 1.9 points per game from last year. However, with her ability to provide scoring options for other players, she may be more valuable to the team in that respect. She comes into this year as second on the team in assists and first in terms of assists per minutes by a wide margin.The other two returning letter-winners are senior guard Clarisse Garcia and sophomore forward Briana Weiss, who together only logged about 1 percent of the team’s minutes from last year and combined for only two points. Senior center Adrian Semrau, who joined the team midway through last season, will return to this year’s squad in November after the conclusion of her volleyball season. The Wildcats also have three returning red-shirt freshman guards: Kyle Dougherty, Maria Getty and Tia Grant. New additions to the team include freshmen guard/forward Amanda Swiezynski, center Heather Scanlon, forward/center Shannon Elliott and junior forward Claire Hannenberg. The team also welcomes junior transfer Laura Kurz. The forward, who left Duke for Villanova, will sit out this year due to NCAA regulations, but will return for the ’07-’08 season with two years of eligibility. Her versatility and outside shooting skill won’t be able to help the team this year, but should be a great addition to next year’s squad.Perretta will be looking for contributions from everyone. He’ll look to fill the guard spot with O’Connor, Getty, Grant and Dougherty. Adamshick is expected to have a strong season at forward, and her efforts will be supplemented by Witman. At center, Karcic and Scanlon will share minutes. Weiss will be used to fill in as a utility player. Last year’s team lived and died by the 3-pointer. On average, they out-shot their opponents from beyond the arc by an 8-3 margin. This year looks to be the same.”We’re going to try and do the same thing because we’re not really big,” Perretta said. “We’re going to have to shoot the three again this year. A lot of our wins and losses will be determined by how well we shoot the three.”The Big East will be a tough division this year.”It is still a senior- and junior- dominated league,” Perretta said. “So it’s still going to be very difficult this year to break through the top five. Next year, a lot of those teams will lose their seniors. Hopefully next year when we get [our] kids to be juniors we can start moving up in the pack.”Villanova finished 10th in the Big East last season and will kick off this season against Delaware on Nov. 12. The ‘Cats home opener will be against No. 7 South Florida. They will also host No. 9 West Virginia, No. 3 DePaul, No. 6 St. John’s, No. 4 Louisville, No. 11 Notre Dame, No. 2 Rutgers and No. 14 Providence at the Pavilion.Last season, the women faired well at home, but that may have been a matter of scheduling.”We had more wins at home, but if you look at the Big East schedule last year, out of the top seven teams in the league, we drew six of them on the road,” Perretta said. “We had the bottom teams in the league at home. It looks like we played better at home because we won more, but we actually played pretty well on the road, but we just couldn’t win because the teams were really good.”However, that may not be the case this season.”This year, the opposite is going to happen,” Perretta said. “We have the better teams at home, which I’m not sure we are good enough this year to beat, and we have the weaker teams on the road … I almost wish we had last year’s schedule this year and this year’s schedule last year.”The women will have to tread a tough road schedule. They face No. 15 Syracuse, No. 8 Marquette, No. 9 West Virginia, No. 13 Georgetown, No. 5 Pittsburgh, No. 16 Seton Hall, No. 12 Cincinnati and No. 1 Connecticut on the road.Perretta enters into his 29th season at Villanova with 528 career wins. Although it may be a building year for the Wildcats, a successful coaching staff and talented players have the chance to surprise the Big East this season.”We’ll have to try to grind out as many wins as we can,” Perretta said. “Hopefully being at home we can pull out a couple upsets against teams.”