SWARTHMORE, Pa. - It's the start of a new era for the Swarthmore College women's basketball program, as the Garnet -- coming off its best season in nearly a decade -- will look to replace the record-setting Class of 2011 and compete for a spot in the Centennial Conference playoffs.
Gone from the program are three-time All-American Kathryrn Stockbower, 1,000-point scorer Ceylan Bodur, all-time blocks leader Summer Miller-Walfish and team leader Sarah Brajtbord. None of the those players will be replaced easily, but with the return of seven players that saw significant minutes last season, this year's squad hopes it can take the conference by surprise. Hoping to play a more up-tempo style than in previous seasons, Swarthmore hopes that what it lacks in size (no player is taller than 6-0) is made up for in speed and long-range shooting ability.
Leading the way in 2011-12 are a pair of sophomores, forward Katie Lytle and point guard Kayla Moritzky. Entering her sophomore season, Lytle has the potential to develop into an All-Centennial player. The definition of an all-around player, Lytle does just about everything on the court, as she is the Garnet's top returner in scoring (8.4 ppg), rebounding (6.4 rpg) steals (1.6 pg) and blocks (0.7 pg). Playing with a passion that is unmatched and possessing an ability to get to the basket at will, Lytle should be the Garnet's go-to player in 2011-12 . Mortizky averaged 6.1 points and a team-leading 2.7 assists per game last season and was one of the team's top outside threats, hitting 23 three-pointers. Showing flashes of greatness throughout her first season -- including earning MVP honors at the 2010 Swarthmore Tip-Off Tournament -- Mortizky's play will go a long way in determining the Garnet's fate during the upcoming season.
Two key players will be absent at the start of the season but figure to play significant roles upon their return. Senior guard Genny Pezzola -- currently leading the Swarthmore volleyball team through the ECAC playoffs -- returns to the backcourt after averaging 5.8 points per game and hitting 22 three pointers in 2010. Madeline Ross -- currently off campus studying abroad -- also returns after a strong sophomore campaign. Ross, who really came into her own in the second-half of the 2011 season, averaged 7.4 points per game and hit a team-best 31 treys last season.
Also returning are seniors Brittany Schmelz, Nicole Rizzo, Christina Duron, junior Eliza Polli, and sophomores Elizabeth Casey and Stephanie Lechich. Schmelz, Rizzo and Duron in particular bring experience to a backcourt that will no doubt be one of the Garnet's strengths in 2011-12.
The lone first-year on the team is center Elle Larsen. As the tallest player on the squad, the freshman from Lancaster, Pa. can expect to see plenty of action in the paint from the get-go.
The non-conference schedule is highlighted by a 320 Challenge match-up at Widener (Nov. 15) to open the season, the annual Swarthmore Tip-Off Tournament (Nov. 19-20), and a winter break trip to Puerto Rico. Centennial Conference action opens on November 22 at home against Dickinson.