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2008-09 Women’s Basketball Outlook

Eagles eyeing rise to GLVC supremacy

The University of Southern Indiana women’s basketball team is looking to climb the ladder in the Great Lakes Valley Conference in 2008-09.

In one of the toughest conferences in Division II, the Screaming Eagles were one of the most competitive teams in the GLVC last year despite their 10-17 overall mark and 5-14 record in league play. USI held second-half leads in nearly every contest in a league that featured six NCAA II Tournament teams and the 2008 national champions.

Head Coach Rick Stein, who needs just seven wins to become the program’s all-time winningest coach, has a solid group of returning players as well as a strong recruiting class to work with as he leads his program back into the national spotlight.

Stein is counting on his group of seniors—forward/centers Ninette Evans, Jessica Grimaldo, and Brittany Neuman—to provide solid leadership in 2008-09.

Evans is USI’s top returning rebounder from a year ago after finishing 17th in the GLVC with 5.7 rebounds per game. She also scored in double figures four times and averaged 5.2 points per outing.

Neuman, who averaged 3.9 points per contest as a junior, also enjoyed a big year on the glass, finishing third on the team and 19th in GLVC with 5.6 rebounds per game.

Grimaldo provided a steady player off the bench for the Eagles last season, averaging 2.7 points and 2.4 rebounds per game.

Sophomore forward/center Courtney Perry and red-shirt freshman forward/center Leigha Thompson will help bolster USI’s front court this season. Perry saw limited playing time in her first year with the Eagles, averaging 1.9 rebounds in 18 games, while Thompson, who was an All-State performer at Teutopolis High School (Teutopolis, Illinois), sat out the 2007-08 campaign due to injury.

Also look for freshman forward Taylor Miller to provide versatility to the Eagles’ front court. Miller, a multi-sport star at Pendleton Heights High School (Pendleton, Indiana), was a two-time All-Conference and All-County performer after averaging nearly 10 points and more than five rebounds per game during her final two seasons.

USI’s back court will be anchored by sophomore guards Amie Newhart and Lauren Meneghetti. Newhart started all 27 games at the point guard position for the Eagles last season, averaging 9.8 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game. She ranked in the top 15 of three GLVC statistical categories, including steals (12th), three-point field goal percentage (15th), and minutes played (15th).

Meneghetti received valuable playing time during her first year in a USI uniform. She played in 24 games, averaging 3.6 points and 1.7 rebounds per contest, and had a season-high 12 points against GLVC champion Drury University.

To complement Newhart and Meneghetti in USI’s back court, Stein used the recruiting trail to bring in an outstanding class of guards.

Junior guard/forward Abby Williams and sophomore guard Ellen Young bring collegiate experience to USI’s roster after successful stints at their previous institutions.

Williams transferred to USI from Kankakee Community College where she was a two-time NJCAA Division II All-American. In 2007-08, Williams averaged 15.7 points and 6.8 rebounds per game and was named the Illinois Junior College Player of the Year while leading her squad to a 30-3 record and the national title game for the second straight season.

Young came to USI from Southern Illinois University Carbondale where she was named to the Missouri Valley Conference All-Freshman team after finishing third on the team and 13th in the league with 11.9 points per game last year. She scored in double figures 20 times as a freshman, including a season-high 26 points against Austin Peay.

Young, who was a three-time All-State performer at Salem Community High School (Salem, Illinois), averaged 25 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 4.5 steals per games as a senior in 2006-07.

In addition to Miller, Williams, and Young, Stein brought in three freshman guards—Rinesha Soaper, Cootie Leeberg, and Lauren Luce—that all have the opportunity to make an impact for the Eagles in 2008-09.

Soaper led Henderson County High School (Henderson, Kentucky) to a 24-5 record and the quarterfinals of the KHSAA Tournament as a senior in 2007-08. Soaper, who was the Kentucky Association of Basketball Coaches’ Region II Player of the Year in 2008, averaged 19.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game as a senior to lead HCHS to the district championship and its fourth straight regional crown.

Leeberg graduated from Montini Catholic High School (Lombard, Illinois) where she averaged 6.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game. She helped guide MCHS to a third-place finish in the 2008 IHSA Class 3A State Tournament and was part of four conference, sectional, and regional championship squads.

Luce graduated from South Knox High School (Vincennes, Indiana) where she competed in basketball, soccer, and track. She earned the Most Assist Award in basketball in 2005 and 2006 and was named to the Vincennes Sun Commercial All-Area team in soccer in 2006 and 2007.

USI begins its 2008-09 campaign November 1 with a trip to Bloomington, Indiana, and Assembly Hall for an exhibition game against Indiana University. The Eagles tip-off the regular season November 15 against Abilene Christian University in the St. Edward’s Shootout in Austin, Texas.

The Eagles open their 15-game home schedule a week later when they host Edinboro University at the Physical Activities Center. USI will entertain six non-conference opponents in addition to nine GLVC squads.

Among USI’s GLVC opponents slated to visit the PAC is defending NCAA II champion Northern Kentucky University (January 8) and long-time rival Kentucky Wesleyan College (January 15). The Eagles, who open GLVC play at Lewis University December 4, also entertain 2007-08 NCAA II Tournament teams, the University of Indianapolis (January 4), Quincy University (February 5), Drury University (February 7), and Missouri University of Science and Technology (February 21).

USI also takes on NCAA II Tournament participant Hillsdale College November 28 at the Indianapolis Classic as well as Bellarmine University January 10 in Louisville, Kentucky.

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