St. Bonaventure women’s basketball opens up its season playing five games in 11 days, including four away from western New York.
They’ll travel to Virginia, Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania to play two 2014 NCAA tournament teams (James Madison and Penn State), the only team to beat the Bonnies at the Reilly Center last year (Toledo) and Detroit, which the Bonnies have never faced.
The difficult schedule should ready St. Bonaventure for conference play, and help make them an attractive choice for either an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament or WNIT qualification.
Head coach Jim Crowley sees such a demanding schedule as a learning opportunity.
“I really like playing a lot of games quickly early in the season to see how we handle some difficult situations,” said Crowley. “It’s a great way to learn about your team.”
The Bonnies basically had six starters last year. Chelsea Bowker graduated, but Gabby Richmond (started 23 games), Hannah Little (started 14 after Richmond’s season-ending surgery), Emily Michael (started 34), Katie Healy and Nyla Rueter (started 35) return.
St. Bonaventure had some depth issues last postseason. After Richmond went down, St. Bonaventure had eight scholarship players.
They added necessary depth with four freshmen and the return of redshirt senior Ashley Zahn, who missed all of last season with a shoulder injury.
Nine players played in the exhibition game against Edinboro last weekend, including Zahn and freshman Mariah Ruff. The depth helps Bona’s in games, but maybe more importantly in practices.
Crowley has been working his players since well before the season began. Summer workouts led into fall practices. Now it is time to see how St. Bonaventure stacks up against tough competition.
“We have everything we need in, so now it’s about getting in game shape and the only way to do that is to play games,” said Crowley.
Tonight will be a nice tune-up game for St. Bonaventure.
Canisius returns three of its top four scorers from a 13-17 team. The Bonnies beat the Golden Griffins 61-47 at Koessier Athletic Center in Buffalo, N.Y. Katie Healy finished that game with 19 points and 17 rebounds.
St. Bonaventure has the definite inside advantage, which is something Crowley wants to exploit.
“The goal for us is always the same, our offense needs to start with the paint,” he said. “Whether we get there with the drive or post entry we must make the defense guard us in the paint.”
But Canisius remains a rivalry game, and even though St. Bonaventure has won the last eight straight meetings, the Golden Griffs have some experience, mixed with quality coaching.
“They will come right after us. The start of the season coupled with this being a local game will have them playing with great intensity,” said Crowley.
Led by preseason All-MAAC second team Kayla Hoohuli, Canisius has a strong group of guards who can shoot and take the ball to the basket.
“They have a very good perimeter game and run a solid motion offense,” said Crowley.
The Bonnies face an uphill battle to begin the season, and it starts tonight at home.