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Bonnies have tough act to follow

The question for the St. Bonaventure women's team this year -- how will it handle success?

Last season, at 16-15 overall, was the first winning campaign for the Bonnies since 1997-98 and the team tied the school women's record for most wins in a season.

How the Bonnies respond to a winning season, and the loss of their starting point guard to a season-ending injury, will determine if last year was a fluke or a portent of good things to come.

>What's up

Dana Mitchell returns after a freshman campaign in which she was an All-Atlantic 10 rookie selection, averaging 13.1 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. She has a nose for the ball and for the hoop and her teammates are willing to give her the ball and let her score. The good news for Bona -- other teams in the conference haven't caught on to how good she can be.

Also back are junior guard Katelyn Murray, a solid shooter and defender, and junior forward Ashley Edwards, who averaged 7.4 rebounds a game last year.

"The returning players feel comfortable, which gives us confidence," coach Jim Crowley said. "They've been through it a bit and have kind of seen it, done it."

>What's down

The team lost senior point guard Priscilla Edwards to a season-ending shoulder injury the week before the season began. Edwards set the tone for Bona on both ends of the floor, slashing through the lane to create scoring opportunities.

Another question mark remains with the team's mentality. There were plenty of firsts for the program last year and Crowley had his team playing hungry. The question is -- what do the players want for themselves this year?
"We're going to go as far as they expect us to go as players," Crowley said. "I don't even tell them my expectations because mine don't matter. I'm not playing. Coaches are going to demand what they demand. It's up to them to see if they're happy with 16 wins or if they want more."

Improvement will be difficult because the Bonnies play in the Atlantic 10.

The women's A-10 is where the men's was six or seven years ago, with five or six teams getting into the postseason and being a national up-and-comer. George Washington is ranked 14th with Xavier and Temple, not to mention Richmond and Saint Joseph's, not far behind.

While the Bonnies may get better this year, finding those results against a talented conference is a difficult proposition.

>Outlook

Crowley upgraded the schedule, taking his team to Mid-American Conference powerhouses Kent State and Bowling Green along with a meeting against No. 19 West Virginia in the Florida Atlantic Holiday Classic.

Once again, the nonconference schedule includes a nine-game stretch away from the Reilly Center. It worked for the Bonnies last year and Crowley hopes the time on the road helps the team bond.
Even with the schedule upgrade and the road trips, the Bonnies should be above .500 in the nonconference schedule. Another 16-win season? It's possible. While Bona won't win the A-10, it could notch some regular-season upsets particularly since the big names all visit the Reilly Center this year.

e-mail: amoritz@buffnews.com

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