Despite graduating two of their top three scorers, UR women’s basketball has not missed a beat from its successful Sweet 16 run last season. Two weeks into their their 2009-10 campaign, the UR women’s basketball team has surged to a 4-1 record, while outscoring their opponents by an average of 14 points in each victory.

Going into the year, the Yellowjackets collectively lost six of their top-eight contributors in terms of minutes played per game but have been able to maintain a strong level of play.

Head coach Jim Scheible credits an increase in physical size in the team’s frontcourt as one of the positive changes that came out of such a turnover. This has helped the team to dominate the boards on both the offensive and defensive ends of the court.

‘We do try to play the same high level of defense that we have done for many years, but we are just trying to get more consistent from a discipline standpoint,” Scheible said.
This defensive tenacity allowed the ‘Jackets to hold their opponents to only 57 points per game this season.

Junior guard Melissa Alwardt has been the team’s catalyst on the court. She has averaged 11.6 points, five assists and 7.2 rebounds per game. Sophomore forward Jodie Luther, after coming off of the bench last season, has become a key player for the team, averaging 13.2 points per game. Joining her in the starting lineup up front has been fellow sophomore forward Kate Agan, who has scored 8.6 points per game. Together, they have solidified the team in the paint.

UR began its season by hosting the Chuck Resler Tournament. The ‘Jackets beat SUNY Oneonta in their opening game, 58-40, before defeating Baldwin Wallace College in their second game, 78-62, to win the tournament title. Alwardt took tournament MVP honors.She scored 11 against Oneonta and dominated Baldwin-Wallace, tallying 25 points with nine rebounds and six assists. Agan was named to the All-Tournament team for totaling 15 points and seven rebounds in the two games. This was the ‘Jackets’ eighth Chuck Resler title in the past 10 seasons.

The only blip on the radar came a week ago against Nazareth College. UR fell behind 20-9 after scoring only two field goals in their first15shots. Scheible credits Nazareth’s impressive offensive performance in addition to UR’s shooting woes for the game’s result.

‘I also give Naz credit for making a lot of timely shots to hold us off,” he said. The Golden Flyers held the ‘Jackets off, 69-55.

On Sunday, UR hosted SUNY Oswego, defeating the Lakers, 66-45. The Yellowjackets’ defense stymied Oswego by allowing only 17 first-half points and amassing 12 steals and blocking five shots during the game.

Luther led the team with 11 points and sophomore forward Madeline Korber added nine points and grabbed five offensive rebounds off of the bench to lead the team offensively. Nine UR players combined for 20 assists Alwardt led the team with six, as many as Oswego tallied in total.

Last night, UR defeated the Rochester Institute of Technology, 70-68, thanks to 21 points from Luther. In the final 1:14, UR scored five unanswered points to take the lead, including a go-ahead 3-pointer with only 32 seconds remaining from Alwardt. RIT was unable to score in two offensive possessions, and UR finished on top. Alwardt added 13 with six assists and eight rebounds, and Korber scored 12 points and grabbed five boards.

With such a young team, Scheible hopes to maintain consistency as the season progresses. By keeping the defense strong and continuing to stress finishing high-percentage baskets in the paint, he hopes that the team will sustain its early success.

‘I expect us to be very good pretty soon and hopefully make another run at an NCAA Tournament bid,” he said.

UR is currently unranked in both the USA Today/ESPN/WBCA Division III Coaches poll and the poll but did receive votes in both surveys. The team will open its University Athletic Association schedule tomorrow afternoon at Emory University before traveling to William Smith College and to Union College before the semester ends.

Wasserman is a member of the class of 2010.

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