By Matthew Strauss
There is one word that will be most commonly used to describe the St. Bonaventure women’s basketball team this season: young. On a squad of 11 women, there are two graduate students, one senior and eight players that are either freshmen or sophomores.
In addition to that, neither of the graduate students appeared in games last year. Chelsea Bowker was injured and Jillian Murphy is entering her first season on the team after four years as a member of the Bonnies softball team. That leaves the lone senior, Ashley Zahn who is out indefinitely with a shoulder injury, and five now-sophomores as the only players to have seen collegiate action last season.
So will they be able to come out of the gate strong, especially with an early matchup with preseason No. 1 UConn just over two weeks into the season? The Bonnies are confident they will, and they have reason to be.
The Bonnies have a pair of sophomores that quite resemble a duo well loved by Bonnies fans that took everyone on a wild run that resulted with an Atlantic-10 regular season championship and a Sweet 16 matchup with national power Notre Dame. Anyone watching this year’s team will certainly see glimpses of Jessica Jenkins and Megan Van Tatenhove in current sophomores Emily Michael and Katie Healy.
Head coach Jim Crowley has also charged these sophomores with a heavy challenge.
Speaking about Healy, Crowley said, “Usually you say to a junior or senior, hey, now it’s your time, take it. We are saying it to a sophomore.”
Healy is the Bonnies’ leading returning scorer and rebounder. She also led the team in blocks, averaging just over one a game. This preseason, Healy was named to the All-Big 4 First Team. She will be a major focal point of the Bonnies this season, and will be a matchup issue for plenty of teams with her mix of a post and mid-range game. She also knocked down seven three-pointers in 23 attempts last season, so look for her to expand on that aspect of her game.
In addition, the Bonnies will look to Michael to play floor general this season.
“Her role has changed slightly,” said Crowley. “Emily has some really good leadership traits, so we wanted to put her in a position where she can use that more, and I think she is starting to learn and recognize that.”
Michael also returns after tallying 20 starts in 29 games last season, the most of any returning Bonnie. However, last season she saw most of her time as a two-guard, or shooting guard. This year she will be in charge of heading the Bonnies offense and controlling the tempo.
She is eager for the role.
“I have a lot of support from my teammates, which I couldn’t do it without them, and the coaches have a lot of faith in me, and it makes me feel confident in myself.”
The change in position was a major focus for Michael during the offseason. She especially worked on her ball handling and defense. A major part of her role on the court will be taking control defensively. She will be guarding the point this year, and says that a major factor in being successful with that is consistently having high energy on defense.
Michael and Healy will have no problems making their presence known on the offensive end. As freshmen, the two combined to average 12.9 points per game. They were the leading freshmen scorers.
Michael adds the perimeter scoring threat to the offense. 35 of her 41 made field goals in the 2011-12 season were from beyond the arc. She shot 31.5 percent from long range—good enough for second on the team.
As for Healy, she has the ability to get high percentage shots around the basket and also get to the free throw line. She was second on the team with 95 made field goals, which was good enough for a field goal percentage of 42.2 percent, compared to the team average of 36.1 percent. Healy is also a force on the defensive end. She led the team with 163 total rebounds and 30 blocks last season.
Healy has made her presence known already in the only exhibition game for the Bonnies. She played 30 minutes, and finished with a game-high 17 points, adding 6 rebounds, four assists, and two blocks in a 65-43 win over Edinboro. She was 6-9 from the field and 5-8 from the free throw line.
The Bonnies start off their season with a pair of weekend road games. Friday, they will open up at North Carolina State in Raleigh, NC. Then on Sunday, they return to New York to play at Colgate.
On a team filled with underclassmen, Healy and Michael stick out above the rest.