The women’s basketball team is switching things up on defense this season with its new style of play.
After graduating Jess Farley ’12, one of last season’s best defenders, the Bombers are taking a more holistic defensive approach. Where Farley may have been depended on to guard an opposing team’s biggest offensive threat, a team approach will be taken as the Blue and Gold will switch on all screens. Head Coach Dan Raymond said this switching — something that hasn’t been done much in the past — will be one of the team’s biggest changes this season. The reason for this new philosophy is to try and capitalize on the team’s height advantage.
“We don’t have any giants or anything like that, but when we switch, we don’t feel like we’re at a disadvantage anywhere,” Raymond said. “Plus, our bigs are pretty mobile and pretty agile, so they can stay with people.”
The South Hill squad, which features 11 returning players, has an average height of 5 feet 9-and-a-half inches. Sophomore Geena Brady is the tallest member of the team at 6 feet 1 inch, and she is also one of the tallest players in the Empire 8 Conference.
Sophomore guard Samantha Klie said having a lot of size and speed on defense is a big advantage, because it makes opponents uncomfortable.
“We all can play almost anyone, so offenses are maybe going to get a little bit flustered, because we switch a lot, and you might have a different girl on you throughout the entire game,” Klie said.
Senior forward Elizabeth Conti said the Bombers are working on how they interact with each other on the courts, along with weak side defensive positioning.
“We’re really keen on communication and how important communication is,” Conti said. “We’re also really trying to focus on being able to contain our girl, and therefore our help can always be there if we get beat.”
The Bombers went undefeated in their opening weekend of play, beating Hamilton College 66-61 on Nov. 16 and defeating Skidmore College 76-50 on Nov. 17. Senior forward Devin Shea led the team in steals against Hamilton, while junior guard Kathryn Campbell and sophomore guard Ally Mnich co-led the steals column against Skidmore.
The Blue and Gold are already showing how versatile they are defensively with different players stepping up each game. Raymond said the Bombers’ lineup this season will require the whole team to stop players rather than having one or two key defenders.
“We don’t have somebody like [Farley] who we can just say, ‘OK, you’re going to go out and guard their best offensive player,’” Raymond said. “So we will evaluate our opponents’ skills from an individual standpoint and then decide who we have on our team that matches up best with those skills.”
The Bombers have a tough non-conference schedule ahead of them, including NCAA tournament regulars Baruch College and University of Rochester, before getting deep into the Empire 8 Conference schedule. Conti said the team will continue to work on its help defense and communication but also focus on improving lateral movement.
“Because we are switching everything, [Coach Raymond] doesn’t want us running rather than sliding and moving our feet,” Conti said. “Instead of us chasing, he’d rather have us slide into position and make sure that we’re always moving when the ball moves so that we’re all in the correct positioning rather than standing up and running to a spot.”
The South Hill squad returns 11 teammates who have played at least one season together, and Klie said this shared experience has already helped the Bombers build a strong defense.
“We have a lot of chemistry on the court, and the communication is working well, because we work really well together,” Klie said. “We have each others’ backs if someone gets beat defensively, and we’re trying to work more as a unit rather than one girl shutting down one player.”