Women’s Hoops Preview: Healthy Kerner Should Pay Dividends
By Zach Smart
For the Quinnipiac women’s basketball team, a rollercoaster 2006-2007 campaign is one they would all like to bounce from their memory banks. After being pegged as one of Northeast Conference’s premier programs (following an appearance in the conference championship in 2006), the Bobcats dropped to the middle of the pack. Self-doubt avalanched, spreading like wildfire. Despite some sublime sequences and marquee victories, it was a down year that ended with a 63-58 loss to Monmouth in the NEC quarterfinals.
A healthy Erin Kerner should help erase these memories. If anything, it should hurl the Bobcats back into the conference’s upper-tier, morphing them into a legit contender for the 2008 conference championship.
Quinnipiac was selected to finish third overall in the NEC pre-season coaches poll. Long Island, which received six first-place votes, was chosen to finish first. Robert Morris, which earned three first-place votes, was selected at second.
The return of redshirt sophomore Kathleen Neyens, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, should also pay dividends. A versatile 6-foot-1 guard, Neyens started all 30 games her freshman season, and was a key cog in the lineup. She garnered Rookie of the Week accolades after copping a double-double against Farleigh Dickinson and recording five steals during a crucial victory over Yale.
Kerner, a stud junior point guard, averaged 18 points and led the NEC in multiple offensive categories before having her season cut short with a nagging knee injury. The injury kept her sidelined for the final eight games of the season.
“I was really disappointed that I couldn’t finish the season,” recalls Kerner, who admits it was tough to watch the team from the bench—a situation she’s never been in throughout an illustrious career that started at Mercyhurst Prep in Erie, Pa.
“But they all did a really great job finishing the season.”
Kerner spent nearly her entire summer on campus, rehabbing five days a week while refining aspects of her game.
“I tried to work really hard to get back for this season,” Kerner explained. “Rehab was a little frustrating because I just wanted to be playing again, but I had to be very patient with the whole process. After six months of rehab I really hope I can come back to same the level I was at when I got hurt, and help the team win a championship.”
The Bobcats will likely have one of the more formidable backcourts in the northeast this season with Kerner, sharpshooter Mandy Pennewell, off guard Brianna Rooney, and the aforementioned Neyens.
Pennewell, perilous from beyond the arc, averaged 11.7 points last season, her campaign underscored by a 34-point eruption against Central Connecticut. Rooney, known more for her defensive prowess, registered a team-high 74 steals while dishing out 67 assists. The trio of Kerner, Pennewell, and Rooney is part of a revived 2005 recruiting class that help put the Bobcats on the map during the ’05-06 season.
Once again, the Bobcats will feature senior Monique Lee, an interior banger who averaged 15 points and eight boards to lead the Bobcats last season. Few teams on the NEC level have the personnel to counter Lee, who could emerge into a walking double-double this season.
Lee will have help from sophomore Courtney Kaminski, who turned many heads last season, averaging 10 points and five boards in significant minutes. Veteran players Hannalee Pervan and Nicole Duperron will provide stability in the front court.
Sophomore Sarah McGowan came on late last season, and the Pennsylvania native will be inserted as a sparkplug off the bench. The Bobcats should have depth with McGowan and sophomores Krystal Lazos, a small forward with a feathery jumper, and Megan Barnum, a quick-strike three-point shooter who starred at New York perennial powerhouse Our Lady of Lourdes High. All are flushed into more considerable roles as second-year players this season.
The Bobcats anticipate an immediate impact from acclaimed freshman Lailah Pratt, a McDonald’s All-American candidate at Palmyra High in South Jersey.
Pratt eclipsed 1,850 points and 1,200 rebounds during her storied four-year stay at Palmyra.
“As long as we can stay healthy, we should have a great season,” opined Kerner. “We’re kind of a veteran team with a lot of juniors and seniors, with some sophomores who got a lot of experience last year so we’re all kind of on the same page. The freshman look good so far, they’ve been pretty quick in picking up the offenses and making the adjustment to college basketball… We all have the same goal of winning a championship so we’ve really been trying to push each other in practice, (trying) to get better everyday.”