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Eagles Looking To Push The Pace This Season

Madison Baum returns to the starting lineup in 2019-20.

BRIDGEWATER, Va. – The Bridgewater women's basketball team will have a different look for the 2019-20.

First, the names will be different as four starters graduated from the 2018-19 squad. Briana Moore and Rebecca Harvey, both 1,000-point scorers during their college careers, graduated and took those points with them.

"We lost four starters and 60 percent of our scoring from a year ago and that would probably make a lot of coaches a little uneasy," said Eagles head coach Sarah Mathews. "We're looking at it as an opportunity to move forward as we build our program."

Also, the Eagles want to play at a different pace this season.

A year ago, Coach Matthew wanted her team to play fast. This season, the Eagles want to play really fast.

"We want to push the tempo and play much faster. We're going to press 40 minutes, every possession," said Mathews. "Deflections and steals will be at a premium. We want to force turnovers and make our opponents uncomfortable."

The Eagles' coaching staff has built the roster with personnel suited for the up-tempo style.

Junior point guard Madison Baum is the lone returning starter and will orchestrate the offense for the third straight season. Baum has dished out more than 140 assists in each of her first two seasons. "Maddie has had a great preseason distributing the basketball. This year, I think you could see her become more of a scoring threat," said Mathews.

The faster pace will require depth and several returnees will fit into the rotation.

Ahlia Moone and Lindsay Estes both missed time a year, but both are ready for action this season. Both are athletic players and give the Eagles scoring punch, especially from the perimeter.

Diamond Huskey, Kayla Darr and Makayla Johnson will have expanded roles as sophomores.

"Diamond plays so hard in our press. She could be our defensive stopper," said Mathews. "Kayla is going to play a lot. She's an excellent shooter, a good defender and her basketball IQ is outstanding. In preseason, Makayla has really been scoring well. She can work inside, but she can also step out and shoot the three."

Erin Dietz provides depth in the backcourt and senior Nina Novosel is still working her way back from an injury.

The team's main post presence will be junior Claire Mocarski. "Claire came back in phenomenal shape. She's stronger and quicker. I think she will be one of the quickest and most fit post players in the conference," said Mathews.

Three newcomers could make an emmediate impact. Senior transfer McKenzie Jenkins gives the Eagles an experienced, heady player in the backcourt. "McKenzie does a lot of the little things. She makes mature basketball plays. She shoots it well from three and she can also run the point if we need her," said Mathews.

First-year players Mary Ruth Shifflett and Jasmyn Pierce will see action in the backcourt. "Mary Ruth is the ultimate consistent player," said the Eagles' head coach. "She defends, she can score. She's so solid. Jasmyn has long arms and is very athletic. She's been a stellar on-ball defender in the preseason."

Cara Helbert is a promising freshman who provides the Eagles with good size while first-year guard Sydney Eugene is still rounding into shape following an injury from high school.

The Eagles will look to create offense from their pressure. Knocking down perimeter shots could be a key for the Eagles. "It's going to be 3-pointer by committee," said Mathews. "I think we have some capable shooters. A lot of what we want to do is drive and kick out to open shooters. Claire will be our main post threat, but we do have some big guards and we'll post them up as well."

Mathews hopes the up-tempo style will play well in a tough and deep conference. "At media day, I think it was mentioned that 12 of 18 all-conference players return. Our style is going to be unique to the ODAC. We're going to be a little undersized, but we should be quicker and we hope to use that to our advantage."

The Eagles open their season Tuesday when they travel to Southern Virginia.