Winter in Rochester may bring cold, snow and dark skies but it does have one redeeming factor basketball season. Providing a warm refuge from the arctic temperatures outside, the Palestra will once again be packed to the brim with excited Yellowjacket fans as the men’s and women’s basketball teams prepare for tip-off.

The women’s team certainly had a season to remember last year. Led by then seniors Alex Porter and Julie Marriott, the ‘Jackets made it as far as the Sweet 16 and finished with a very strong 24-4 record. While both Porter and Marriott will be hard to replace, this year’s team is confident they can repeat the success of last season.

UR will have two returning starters, junior guard Melissa Alwardt and senior guard Jess Mastronardi. They combine to give the ‘Jackets a dangerous duo in the backcourt. Alwardt was a Second Team University Athletic Association selection last season and also led the team in points. She will most likely line up at point guard while Mastronardi will play both the point and shooting guard.

At the center position, UR will look to sophomore Judie Luther. Luther was a key player off the bench last year and will be a force in the paint. Joining Luther up front will be sophomore Kate Agan. Meanwhile junior guard Caroline Bernal-Silva brings experience to the table, having started her freshman year but missing much of last season due to injury.

One factor that head coach Jim Sheible will be able to count on is a bench that can go 11 players deep. Senior guard Alaina Tosatti will be an especially important player coming off the bench, as she is one of only two seniors on the team and will provide much-needed maturity.

Like the women’s team, the men will have to replace a few key players from last year’s season. Gone are all-American swingman Mike Chmielowiec and playmaking point guard Max Kaplan. Both players will be missed on the court, but there is plenty of talent to replace them.

Up front, sophomore forward Nate Novosel, the reigning UAA Rookie of the Year, and junior forward Marcus Roberson will team up to give the Yellowjackets a very formidable front court. While Novosel’s talent is apparent, it’s the experience of Roberson that will be especially important for the ‘Jackets. Roberson played significant minutes his freshman year and started every game last year, making him one of the most experienced players on the team. Junior Dave Gould will most likely start at the small forward position, but also expect to see a lot of sophomore forward Billy Serle, who saw action in all 25 games last year and finished fourth on the team in points.

In the backcourt, head coach Mike Neer will have a variety of talented players to choose from. Junior guard Mike Labanowski was a starter on last year’s team until a knee injury put him out for the year. After a long rehabilitation process, Labanowski is ready to step back into his role as a dangerous scorer especially from beyond the arc. At the point guard position, UR will turn to the abilities of freshman John DiBartolomeo. The talented freshman will be counted on to run the UR offense. Junior Matt Murphy will also get plenty of time at point guard.Murphy saw action in 23 games last year and provides excellent depth for UR.

Senior forward Derrick Fetzer and senior guard Colin Cubit are the only seniors on the team and will provide important leadership and strong play from off the bench. Cubit stepped up last year when Labanowski went down with his injury. UR also has a number of other promising sophomores and freshmen that could end up playing a pivotal role if need be.

Cohen is a member of the class of 2011.

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