CLINTON, S.C. - After last season’s rise to the top tier of the Big South Conference, the Presbyterian College women’s basketball team will look to make another strong impression on the league in 2013-14 with a slew of new faces and a strong corps of returning veterans.
PC opens the season on Sunday at Georgia at 2 p.m.
The Blue Hose achieved new heights in 2012-13, finishing with a 19-12 record overall and a 14-4 marker in the Big South to tie for second in the league. The record marked the team’s highest win total in Division I and highest finish since joining the Big South in 2007-08 while helping head coach Ronny Fisher attain Big South Conference Coach of the Year honors.
Fisher enters his sixth season at the helm and, after losing six seniors to graduation, will look to a young squad this season.
“Our 2013-2014 team will take on a very different look from the team we had a season ago,” said Fisher. “With the graduation of six seniors and four starters, there is certainly a void to fill. I am excited to see who will step up and produce with the opportunity to play.”
Three seniors will lead the squad in Karlee Taylor, Sherece Smith and Megan Schaaf. Taylor excelled both on and off the court last season, capturing the Big South Conference Scholar-Athlete of the Year award and ranking second in the nation in three-point field-goal percentage (48.3 percent). The marker set a new Division I high for the program and helped her to an 11.0 point-per-game clip. Taylor also set a new program single-season record with 85 treys.
The Blue Hose also captured the Big South Conference’s Team Sportsmanship award for their conduct on the court.
Smith played only eight games in 2012-13 due to injury but will be ready to play for her senior campaign. The senior enters the year as the odds-on favorite to handle point guard duties due to her ability to bring the ball up the floor through traffic and her slick passing ability. As a sophomore, Smith ranked second on the team in rebounds per game (5.2) and fourth in points per game (6.0) in 2011-12.
Schaaf provides a reliable option for PC in the paint on both ends of the floor. The forward boasted a 46.2 percent shooting percentage last season coming off of the bench and can protect the ball with a shot-blocking frame on defense. An energetic leader, Schaaf completes the trio of seniors that will lead the Blue Hose into 2013-14.
Noelle Carter enters the season as the lone true junior. Carter blossomed as a sophomore, starting in seven games and playing in all 31. The forward averaged 15.5 minutes a game and boasted the third-highest shot block total (11) on the squad. The Blue Hose also entrusted ball-handling duties to Carter late in the season and she will play a crucial role for PC in her third campaign.
Two redshirt sophomores also look to figure heavily in the rotation. Keyonna Allen and Kasey Hobbie enjoyed breakout first seasons on the court last year and will only improve. With the graduation of PC’s starting center and forward, the Blue Hose will count on Allen to grow as a dominant force down low. Allen started 12 games out of 30 and averaged the fifth-highest point total on the team (3.5) while grabbing 3.0 rebounds per game in 11.7 minutes a night.
Hobbie gives PC another guard option and a reliable scoring touch from deep. In her first season, Hobbie shot 42.9 percent from behind the arc—including a game against Campbell where she hit six threes to help PC grab an overtime win—and played a key role in bolstering PC’s team three-point average to the third-best in the nation (38.0 percent).
Three sophomores suit up for PC in Katelyn Grisillo, Taryn Richard and Elizabeth Landers. Guards Grisillo and Richard played a combined 30 games last season coming off the bench and will factor into PC’s rotation in their second seasons. Landers, a star post player at J.L. Mann High School in 2011, transferred to PC last year and practiced but could not play due to NCAA regulations.
“Seniors Karlee Taylor and Sherece Smith are experienced players who will be called on to lead our team,” Fisher said. “Karlee has established herself as one of the top shooters in the country and Sherece gives us a proven leader at the point guard position. Junior Noelle Carter and sophomores Keyonna Allen and Kasey Hobbie showed glimpses of their potential last season. They will need to gain confidence early on for our team to have success. Senior Megan Schaaf and sophomores Katelyn Grisillo and Taryn Richard have worked hard in the offseason and will provide much needed depth as well.”
Five other newcomers join the Blue Hose in freshmen Aianna Kelly, Kaycie Reffner, Brooke Rhodes, Kendra Talley and Rebecca Walker. Kelly helped Woodside (Va.) High School to three district championships and garnered First Team All-District honors while Reffner earned a slew of team awards as the captain of Altoona (Pa.) Area High School.
Rhodes was named Watauga Valley Conference Player of the Year as the center for Cloudland (Tenn.) High School, Talley helped Wesleyan (Ga.) School to four state titles as a NCSAA Southeast Super Region team member and Walker garnered a McDonald’s High School All-American nomination and numerous accolades after her career at Brookwood (Ga.) High School.
“Newcomers Rebecca Walker, Aianna Kelly and Kaycie Reffner will contribute immediately,” said Fisher. “Walker is a 6’2 versatile forward with a tremendous skill set for her size. Kelly and Reffner are both ultra-competitive and display different strengths. Kelly is a very fast guard with the ability to create while Reffner is a very good shooter with a great understanding of the game. It will be fun to watch the growth of these three freshmen during the season.”
The Blue Hose set out on an ambitious non-conference schedule before opening Big South Conference play. PC takes on top programs like Georgia, NC State, Virginia Tech and Auburn and welcome 14 teams to Templeton Center as the team looks to defend its house—evidenced by a 9-3 home record last season.
Big South action starts early at home this season when Gardner-Webb comes to town on Wednesday, December 7 as the ninth game on the schedule. PC won a program-record 14 league games last season and Fisher hopes for another strong season for the Blue Hose.
“We will need to mature quickly as we face one of the toughest schedules in the country,” Fisher said. “Non- conference games with Georgia, Auburn, NC State and Virginia Tech among others are scheduled to prepare us for another tough Big South Conference schedule. Our ultimate goal is to be playing our best basketball in March as we travel to Myrtle Beach for the Big South Conference Tournament.”
Assistant coach Corey Mullins returns for his second year on the staff. The Middle Tennessee State (‘03) graduate handled a multitude of duties in his first season while helping the Blue Hose reach unprecedented heights in the Big South. Mullins worked with the team’s guards and helped guide the group to one of the nation’s top three-point shooting performances, as well as forming one of the league’s stingiest defenses.
Kat Kundmueller joins the coaching staff this season as an assistant. A 2010 graduate of Abilene Christian University, Kundmueller arrives after three seasons as the top assistant at Faulkner (Ala.) University. The Lady Eagles improved their standing in the Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) every season en route to a No. 18 NAIA national ranking in 2012-13 and the SSAC West division’s best record with Kundmueller’s coaching, as well as the second-best field-goal percentage defense and field goal percentage in NAIA Division I.
This season, fans can catch free live video of every home game on the Big South Network presented by State Farm. A home game against High Point on February 15 will also be televised on ESPN3 as the Blue Hose look to repeat a result from last season, when the team knocked off High Point on ESPN3 for the program’s first-ever win over the Panthers.
With a large, young group of newcomers and a seasoned returning unit, the Presbyterian College Blue Hose will look to lay another brick in the foundation of one of the Southeast’s top Division I women’s basketball programs.