Oh The Places They'll Go ...
(This originally appeared in the Columbia/Cornell game program Feb. 9-10)
The Dartmouth women's basketball sophomore class was dropped in the proverbial "frying pan" upon their arrival on campus in the fall of 2011. The group of Abbey Schmitt (Winnetka, Ill.), Kamala Thompson (Selden, N.Y.), Tia Dawson (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) and Milica Toskovic (Santa Monica, Calf.) learned a lot during their freshman campaign and are now ready to uphold the tradition of excellence that is a standard for the women's basketball program.
With just one senior and one junior on the roster during their freshman campaign, the Big Green underclassmen were called upon to "learn on the fly" and they did just that. Dawson was thrust into the starting role at center from day one and hasn't looked back. In 2011-12 she played in 27 games with 25 starts and cemented herself as Dartmouth's top defensive threat, leading the team with 7.0 rebounds while tallying 47 blocks - good enough to lead the Ivy League as a freshman.
Thompson and Toskovic also saw quality game minutes. Toskovic played in 25 games with 19 starts while Thompson saw action in 22 contests with 10 starts. Not everyone saw time on the court during their rookie season, and that was, unfortunately, the plight of Schmitt, who was forced to watch from the sidelines while rehabbing an injury suffered in high school. Thompson also had her rookie season cut short due to injury.
Despite just a 6-22 record during their first year, the Big Green rookies were impressive. Dawson and Toskovic each earned Ivy League Rookie of the Week honors twice. Dawson posted 10 games in double-figures and had a season-best 13 rebounds against Hartford. She tallied a career-best six blocks on two occasions. Toskovic also had 10 games with double figures and posted a career-high 17 points on two occasions.
Fast forward to 2012-13.
Coaches always say the good thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores and for this group of sophomores this holds true.
Dawson, Toskovic and Thompson have a full season of collegiate basketball under their belt and Schmitt is healthy and back on the hardwood in a big way.
Schmitt has been the biggest spark this season and has provided an additional boost to a team that is the second youngest in the country. In the season-opener against Bryant she showed what she could do and exploded for a double-double with 11 points and 14 rebounds becoming the first player to record a double-double in their collegiate debut since the 2003-04 season when Elise Morrison had 10 points and 11 rebounds in her debut. Her 14 rebounds were also the most for a Big Green player since Sasha Dosenko recorded 16 boards against Princeton last season. Currently, Schmitt ranks second on the team in scoring and rebounding with 8.1 points and 6.1 rebounds per game.
Dawson has also elevated her game as of late and has been in double figures in two of Dartmouth's last three games and has recorded double-figure rebounds in four games, including tying her career-best of 13 on two occasions.
Thompson has also been impressive. After missing the last six games of 2011-12 she has come back focused and ready to go. After averaging 4.1 points last season, she is averaging 4.9 points and 5.4 rebounds. She has started in 15 contests and has really given the Big Green a boost on the defensive end with her strong rebounding in traffic despite her diminutive 5-7 frame.
Diminutive is not the word to describe Toskovic. Her 6-2 frame allows her to be a force both in the paint, but she is better known for her shooting stroke, especially from long range. Twice this season she has reached double figures with a season-best 14 points in the opener at Bryant. She has drained 15 triples on the season and was a perfect 3-of-3 from long range against FIU. She is currently shooting 34.9 percent from behind the arc.
Although just sophomores this group seems a little more seasoned than most sophomores due to the fact that they were forced to hit the ground running last season. That will pay off in dividends in the next few years', as they can help bring along this year's group of seven rookies, as the Big Green will continue to work their way back into the upper echelon of the Ivy League.