By David McEliece, Sports Information Assistant
The Caltech women's basketball team is looking forward to the 2013-2014, and with a smattering of veteran presence and first year talent, they hope to improve over last year's effort, which included a win over Bethesda Christian. Head coach Sandra Marbut shared her thoughts about her players and the upcoming season.
"I think we'll be improved and ready to get on the court and test ourselves. There is no question we are a better team than a year ago, however we will still be young with nine of the twelve players on the roster being underclassmen. How quickly they can mature and continue maturing for the returning sophomores is the big variable and will be the determinant of what we can accomplish this year."
One of those sophomores, Stephanie Wong, led the team in scoring last year with a 15 point per game average. She was second-team all conference and set an all-time record for points scored in a season at Caltech (374). She also led the team in three-point field goals made (66) and steals (43).
"We will continue to expect great things from Stephanie as her experience will create new opportunities for her," said Marbut.
Another sophomore Marbut will expect growth from after a stellar first season is Esther Du. Du had a great first year, starting every game at point guard and leading the team in field goal percentage and three-point field goal percentage. She also led the team with 52 assists on the year.
"Esther Du spent her first-year at the point and I expect to see her gain some serious ground in the SCIAC as a result. She is possibly the best pure point guard in the conference, and we will look to her to lead the on court push" said Marbut.
Backing up Esther at point and providing senior leadership for this team is two-sport Caltech star Rachel Hess. As a captain she will provide a steady hand for the developing players on and off the court. Last year she played in all 25 games and was the team's third leading scorer (4.6 ppg). "Rachel holds the single game scoring record here at Caltech (36 points against Arizona Christian her sophomore year) and has a stop on a dime jump shot," said Marbut.
Yet another sophomore Marbut will expect to see improvement from is center Grace Leishman. As a first-year player she played in 22 games, starting 13, where she averaged 5.7 points and 5.1 rebounds a game. Towards the end of last season she really started breaking out, getting double digit rebounds on February 12 and double digits points two days later. Marbut sees the carryover from that to her work in practice thus far. "Grace is looking fantastic in the early parts of the season, having matured further into her game. I expect to see her out on the break and scoring in transition."
Bridget Connor, the team sharpshooter, has put in some real work on her game as anyone who hangs around Caltech gym can attest. Her coach has seen the hardwork pay off. "Bridget did some major work over the summer to perfect her short range shot and increase accuracy to rise to 'dead on' status" said Marbut.
Connor had the second highest field goal percentage on the team last season. She had two games where she went 4-for-5 from the field and had a season high 12 points against in Caltech's final game of the year against ClaremontMuddScripps.
Kristin Anderson, who led the team in rebounds last year (6.4 rpg), is a player the Beavers can count on for her consistency. "Kristin has been doing a great job in practice doing what she does which is score quietly yet with great effectiveness," said Marbut. Anderson had three double-digit scoring games last year.
Another sophomore returner is Ann Chen who averaged more than four points a game in her freshman campaign and who started 15 of the 25 games she played in. She averaged 4.1 points and an assist per game. She had 13 points against Whittier College and although it's clear she can score, Marbut sees her prowess on the defensive end as well. "Ann has returned on a mission to be the go to person when you need lock down defense and by the looks of early practices, she has definitely taken it up a notch," said Marbut.
The final returning player will be Tiffany Huang, who is yet another consistent presence on the bench and an attribute to the growth of this team on and off the floor. According to Marbut, "Tiff has put in great work in the offseason to improve her shot efficiency and is a great role player for this team." She helps set a standard in the locker room with all her hard work, and it's paid off. "Her growth is tremendous," said Marbut, "you would never guess she's the same player as who joined us as a first year."
Clearly the Beavers are coming in with a lot of talent, and Marbut knows that having to make decisions about who to play and when won't be easy, but also knows it's exactly the kind of problem you want to have as a coach.
"Essentially we bring back seven players with starting experience. Sarah Wright was the only starter from a year ago who graduated, so although technically we are filling her spot, the three players who have filled it have all been frequent starters in their time with us. This group could potentially be playing for a starting job every week. That is a great place to be for a coach…where you have players working to earn that spot and so many of them anyone could get the call on any day," said Marbut.
Adding to the talent pool are the four first-years on the team and Marbut is excited about what they could bring this year to the program and to the school going forward. Marbut says "I think you have to be aware of all our first-years," in no small part due to the fact that many of them came from winning high school programs.
Kate Lewis was as busy as she was successful in her high school athletics career. She was an all-district and all-region goalie in soccer and in addition to her two-sport career played on two basketball teams off-campus. According to Marbut, she looks as good on the court as her resume would suggest she would.
"Kate Lewis is practicing well and comes from a great high school program. Her team went 32-2 and finished seventh in Texas last year. She is from a great basketball region and has fantastic experience having spent three of her HS years on teams with 30 plus wins. She is athletic and has a nose for the rim. Look for her scoring punch," said Marbut.
Another busy basketballer, Michelle Wong not only played four years at high school, she also participated on a club team and an AAU team.
"Michelle Wong is another first year with great experience from high school. Every year of her time at Peninsula they were a post-season team, so Michelle knows what big games feel like. I think we will see her join Ann Chen as a tandem of lock down defenders. Michelle is fast!" Said Marbut.
Mary Boyajin was a two-sport athlete in high school, participating in swimming alongside basketball. She was a captain of the basketball team her senior year and led her team to the CIF finals."Mary Boyajian may be from a smaller high school, however she has also had great success. Her team was runner up in 5AA last year for Southern Section and grabbed a berth to the state tournament, so Mary has also had to bring it when it counts."
"The quartet of first-years rounds out with Kit Chinetti. Kit is a big body in the paint and she will be fierce on the boards, jump starting the fast break and still having some gas left to run the floor with solid speed for a post," Marbut said about the last of the first years.
With first-years already coming in with big experience, and shooters, post-players, and point guards that all can be counted on filling out the roster, it will be a season not to be missed for Beaver fans everywhere. Their home opener is November 27 against Linfield and Caltech has another home game three days later against La Sierra. Also look for look for games at Braun gym against league rivals Occidental and Pomona-Pitzer on December 5 and 7 respectively.