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For the first time in her seven years as head coach of the St. Catharine College women, Lena Bramblett will enter a basketball season with seniors on the roster. And the Patriots’ mentor believes that will bode well for her squad that will enter the second campaign as a member of the NAIA and the perennially challenging Mid-South Conference.
Three seniors will no doubt play key roles for the Patriots who last year compiled a 12-18 overall mark and a 2-10 conference slate. Erin Rogers, Brittany Darden and Iona Caulder comprise the upper class triumvirate that the Patriots will count on as they open the season Tuesday at Midway College.
Rogers, a 5-8 guard/forward from Louisville, led the team in scoring last year at 16.4 points a game and was the team’s main threat from three-point range. Caulder, from Paris, Ky., handed out four assists a game last year from her point guard position. Darden returns to St. Catharine where she played for Bramblett in the 2006-2007 season. The 5-7 guard from Guthrie, Ky. played one season at the University of Southern Indiana and redshirted last year while taking classes at St. Catharine.
“It is valuable to have the experience that these players provide,” said Bramblett who owns a 102-74 record with the Patriots. “They know what to expect. They know they have to bring it every single game at this level. Iona has really committed herself for her senior year. She has really stepped it up in practice which hopefully will carry into the season. Erin can carry a team with her shooting and to have Brittany Darden back is huge. She can get you key baskets late in the game and as a defender can lock a team’s top scorer down.”
Bramblett thought she would have five seniors on the roster but Taylor Oliver and Whitney Jordan, both from Tennessee, will redshirt this season due to foot injuries. But the Patriots will still benefit from experienced players throughout the roster.
Joining the three seniors in what Bramblett projected as the starting lineup will be Courtney Milam and Danielle Brown. Milam, a 6-0 sophomore forward from Anderson County, averaged 13 points and five rebounds a game her freshmen year. Brown, a junior from LaRue County, averaged nine points a game and grabbed six boards a game last season.
“We are a little undersized in the post but those two battle hard in there,” added Bramblett. “Courtney has the making of being very good. She was second in the voting for freshman player of the year in the conference last season.”
Adding depth inside will be another player who redshirted last year. Reena Haliburton (Louisville), 5-11, will “add another post presence and is a smart player who could work into a starting spot” according to Bramblett. Shelby County product Jennica Garitty, 5-11 sophomore, will add some quality minutes inside as one of the team’s best rebounders.
Back up duties at the guard positions will be filled by Emily Caras from Paris and Kyleigh Kreyenbuhl from Lexington. “Emily is very talented but still is adjusting to our system. Kyleigh is small but is really a workhorse, has the heart of a champion,” Bramblett said.
Sa’de Mullins, a junior transfer from Berea, and freshman Dee Johnson from Marion County will redshirt this season.
Back for her third season on the Patriots’ bench will be assistant Terreka Walker. She will be joined by new assistant coach Terran Duncan who was a two time All-American at Lindsey Wilson. “We are fortunate to have two quality assistants in the program,” Bramblett stated. “Terreka coaches the JV team and helps with recruiting. “Terran brings a great bit of knowledge in working with our post players.”
Bramblett is optimistic about her team’s second season as a four-year program but cites a difficult schedule on which they will embark. “By adding a couple of players to the returnees it will allow us to do things we couldn’t do last year. We’ll need that with the schedule we have. I guess I’m crazy but we will again play at Union and Lambuth (both in Tennessee) in the first week of the season. But that will tell us quickly where we stand.”
Union beat Lambuth last year in the national championship game and the teams are projected to be ranked first and second nationally as the 2009-2010 season opens.