(Posted November 19, 2004)

Huntingdon, PA - The Juniata women's basketball team enters the 2004-05 season as one of the youngest team's in the country, with only three players on its roster with any collegiate experience. Nine newcomers will all compete for playing time this year for the Eagles. While this might seem like a problem, coming off a 5-19 campaign a season ago, 5-19 campaign, this season is a clean slate for Juniata. The three upperclassmen will be looked to for stability and experience, but the new freshman class will largely determine Juniata's success.

The road towards that success will begin on Saturday when the Eagles begin the season at the Penn State-Behrend Tip-off Tournament. Juniata will face the host team at 8 pm Saturday.

Looking to lead Juniata early in the season is junior guard Kristen Kirk (Newport/Newport) who the most experienced player on the Juniata roster. She led the team in scoring last year, averaging more than 14 points per game and earning a berth on the Commonwealth All-Conference second team. A lingering knee injury may hamper her this season, but a strong supporting cast should help ease her responsibilities, especially on the offensive end.

"We really don't have one 'go-to' person, with our style of defense and transition," second-year head coach Danny Young says. "But, we will rely on Kristen for her leadership and her enthusiasm. There are a lot of things that we rely on [her for], but we also have 12 quality kids that can play just as well."

Young will look to change the style of play this season to match the all the newcomers on the roster. With a quicker, more athletic team, Juniata will use a four-guard set and look to push the ball in transition at every opportunity. On defense, they will look to harass taller opponents by pressuring the ball as much as possible.

"If you want to compare last year's team to this year's team, that is the most significant difference between the two teamsâ??their athleticism," Young says. "I think that is going to translate: we are going to be a better defensive team because of it; we are going to be much more conditioned for the transition game. It's just going to make us an all around better defensive team."
Along with Kirk, returnees Lesly Snoby (Johnstown/Johnstown) and Katie O'Brien (South Western/Hanover) will both be solid presences for the Eagles. However, at least two freshmen will be on the court at all times this season.

"Our freshmen are going to get a lot of minutes," Young says. "It [will] take patience. They are going to become so experienced in one year, and yet we are going to take some lumpsâ?¦But, we are going to work with what we have right now. It is a great opportunity for them and I'm excited to see what they can do with the opportunity."

Among the newcomers, Jill Walsh (Ferndale/Johnstown) and Mindy Werner (West York/York) will battle for playing time at the point guard spot. Jess Winemiller (Dallastown/York) will get a lot of time at the forward position, and Ali Meckey (Bishop Carroll/Ebensburg) and Jeny Killen (Bishop Caroll/Ebensburg) will compete for time at small forward.

But with all the youth and changes that may occur during the course of the season Young hopes to instill in her team one constant - a sense of defensive pride.

"I want everybody to know Juniata by their defensive intensity," she says. "Defense is what I'm all about. It's what I was all about as a player and it's what I want to just pass along. It just takes special people and a special team to make defense our number one priority and its something again that I think they are buying into already. I think its just going to get bigger and better as the year progresses and as they become more successful with it."

As a player at Juniata, Young loved playing defense. If her players can take that same mentality, it will only be a matter of time before they become successful. And while the coaches and the players know that earning the success they are looking for won't be easy, particularly in the early going, they believe that it will come. The future of the Juniata College women's basketball program is looking bright.


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Contact April Feagley at feaglea@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3131 for more information.