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Season Outlook

Posted Tuesday, December 09, 2008 by Brian Cook Sports editor

With Wiedman back in the fold, will the Lady Warriors be tough enough?

December 3, 2008

SALAMANCA �” In a game of speed, coach Colleen Wiedman has to be faster than ever this time. Under her watchful eye, the Lady Warriors begin their first practice more than a week late and she admits, she is learning about them on the fly.

Both Wiedman and her team have been away from the game for a while.

With a notably late start after the prolonged volleyball season (eight of the 11 players play both), Wiedman, one of Salamanca’s most successful coaches, is returning to the bench for the first time since 2002. The 2008 campaign marks her twenty-second go-round with the Lady Warriors.

But so much has changed. Wiedman, at the helm for the 1988 Salamanca State title team, is just trying to play catch-up with conditioning drills and whip the team into basketball shape by the end of December �” not an easy task with the prestigious IAABO Tournament looming over winter break.

The challenge did not deter her in the slightest.



"I would’ve taken basketball back no matter what...it wouldn’t have made any difference," she responded to an inquiry about the experienced squad that many are expecting to take Section VI handily. All but two are seniors.

When the ball is tossed up for the Tip-Off Tournament Dec. 4, four of her five starters will be senior returnees from the Class C semifinal team in 2007. Ashley Abrams, who sits at 938 career points, could conceivably break Salamanca’s all-time record this season. She will once again handle the point and give fits to opposing coaches with her ability to penetrate as well as shoot the three.

Abrams will be dishing off to shooting guard and all-around defensive speedster Brittany Haines, who Wiedman said has impressed in practice thus far after suffering through much of 2007 with a nagging wrist injury that hampered her shooting.

Meanwhile, Katie Auge, one of the team’s best rebounders and inside scoring threats will roam the four spot at forward.

However, the real test of how far the team can go lies at the feet of Hannah Reynolds, the 5-10 center who, at times, can dominate Class C opponents.

"Hannah’s a lot stronger than I envisioned," said a surprised Wiedman after getting her first look at the post-woman.

While inside strength is one attribute, consistency is another facet of the game that Wiedman hopes to work on. The Lady Warriors had an up-and-down 2007, losing twice to a Frewsburg team they owned the season prior.

Getting balance to compliment 20-point a night scorer Abrams is high on the priority list, and Reynolds could be part of that equation, especially if Abrams sees some of the box-and-one and triangle-and-two defenses that frustrated her last season.

Meanwhile, the team beat Class B Olean in the Tip-Off finals, an opponent they could see again in their 2008 invitational. The Lady Huskies make a repeat performance, along with Holland and Southwestern, to open the season.

Another great unknown is the second guard position and backup to Abrams at the point, an integral part of Wiedman’s emphasis on conditioning and speed.

Wiedman doesn’t hide her affinity for strong guard play, and with the loss of 2007’s lone senior, Christina Arena, and the season-ending knee injury to back-up Christina LeBlanc, sophomore Emily Cooper could fill the void at two nicely.

"She’s got a good basketball mind," Wiedman said of the JV call-up. Cooper is joined by Chelsea Cole, Lauren Dry, and Kayla Siperek as first-timers on the varsity squad.

Rounding out the team is gritty 5-foot-2 guard Molly Cooper and fellow seniors Melissa Liberatore and Loriza Acosta. The long-armed Liberatore proved herself to be more than a worthy backup to Auge last season with her hard-nosed play in the paint, while Cooper spelled valuable minutes with solid defensive efforts. Acosta should also see time in the paint.

With the time shortage proving to be an obstacle, Wiedman said she is making some small changes, and the team is handling it well for an experienced bunch not used to alterations.

"They’ve played together for so long, so they have gotten set in certain ways. Now I’m coming in and trying to change a few things and they’re very receptive to it, they’ve been outstanding.

However, "a 2-3 zone is a 2-3 zone. I may put in a couple different things with how I want my zone done compared to how they’re used to doing it."

While zone defenses may not pose a problem, getting into basketball conditioning in time for IAABO at St. Bonaventure may. The Lady Warriors are headed to the tourney for the second consecutive year, and the volleyball court most of the team called home since September doesn’t call for many wind sprints.

"That’s what I told them �” if you’re dying now, what are you going to do when you get down to the court at Bona’s?" Wiedman joked.

Conditioning aside, Wiedman immediately pointed to Randolph and Franklinville when asked about potential road hazards on the path through the league now that Frewsburg lost their top two scorers to graduation.

Last season, Salamanca took both meetings from the Lady Cardinals in wild affairs, and topped the Lady Panthers and their Iona-bound center Samantha Kopp at IAABO. They’ll see her twice more thanks to the new CCAA league realignment.

With nearly all the talent that brought Salamanca to the brink against Allegany-Limestone in ’07 and was perhaps an Abrams injury away from the finals, one couldn’t blame Wiedman for setting the bar high.

But she won’t bite on those outside expectations.

"You know what? I’m not going to say. There are no goals. I think everybody’s probably got a goal in the back of their mind...obviously they want to take States again, but you can’t think like that."

Note: Wiedman guided the only Salamanca basketball team to not only a State title, but also a NYS Federation title in 1988.


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