Women's Basketball on the Hunt for 18th Ivy League Title

After spending the last several months going through offseason workouts and conditioning, the Dartmouth women's basketball team will take to the court on Nov. 10 against Bryant on a mission for their 18th Ivy League title.

The Big Green will once again be young, entering the 2012-13 season with just three upperclassmen in senior Faziah Steen (Detroit, Mich.) and juniors Nicola Zimmer (Chevy Chase, Md.) and Eve Zelinger (Palo Alto, Calif.). Captains Steen and Zimmer along with the help of Zelinger are going to be called upon to lead a group of 11 underclassmen, including seven freshmen.

"Faziah and Nicola make a great duo," said head coach Chris Wielgus. "I think it would be hard to do this alone. The nice thing about Faziah and Nicola is that they both have roles on the court that are dominating. They both have personalities that are a little "no nonsense" and both of them come to Dartmouth having played at a very high level and I know that they want to play at that high level here."

 Steen enters her senior season as Dartmouth's top offensive threat averaging 15.4 points per game during her junior season. The three-time All-Ivy selection enters her senior campaign ranked No. 15 on Dartmouth's all-time scoring list.

The Big Green will rely heavily on juniors Zimmer and Zelinger. Zimmer started 26 games at the point guard position as a junior and ranked third in the Ivy League in assists (3.5) and fifth in minutes played (33.3).

"I'm excited for Nicola," said Wielgus. "This is her first October since she's come into the program, that she's done spring and summer and fall conditioning. She's in as good of shape as any athlete in the school. Strength and conditioning coach Miller has said that she's in phenomenal shape, she is solid, she's put in the time and now she has a year of playing under her belt. We're pleased with her leadership and now she has to begin to run the system for us."

Dartmouth will also lean on the sophomore class that saw quite a bit of time during their rookie season. Tia Dawson (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) led the Big Green in rebounding pulling down 7.0 boards per game and led the Ivy League in blocked shots with 1.7 rejections per game.  Guards Milica Toskovic (Santa Barbara, Calif.) and Kamala Thompson (Selden, N.Y.) also saw lots of court time last season.

Toskovic, also a two-time Ivy League Rookie of the Week selection, played in 25 games with 19 starts and twice posted a career-high 17 points while Thompson made 10 starts and saw action in 22 games with three games in double figures. The Big Green will also gain the services of Abbey Schmitt (Winnetka, Ill.) who was out with injury last season.

The Big Green added several freshmen to complement Dawson on the inside.

"I think that we're going to be a little surprising inside with our post players," said Wielgus.  "We've got some strength up front and we have finesse in Tia Dawson and Abbey Schmitt. Nobody has seen Abbey because she sat last year because of an injury, but she is crafty. We also have three strong freshmen that are physically strong that are arriving already strong. Some of them are very proficient and skilled at the rim and can score through contact now they just have to learn the system. We're hoping the inside game will be a bit of our strength."

Dawson, a large part of the offense last season, showed that she can handle what it takes to be a strong post player in the Ivy League and the Big Green will look for her to expand on her stellar freshman season.

"Tia's more skilled than she was a year ago and she's done a much better job in the post defense. We expect a lot out of her. She has just become a better basketball player simply put. She is better than she was a year ago and that's all around. Basketball-wise, maturity-wise, she's just grown up a lot and we're looking to see her flourish"

 In addition to a strong presence in the post, the Big Green will look to have a balanced attack led by its guards. Steen and Zimmer will be the primary ball handlers but Dartmouth will rely on all of its guards to run the system.

"We're looking for a balanced attack," said Wielgus. "I'm looking for less turnovers. Our guards must reduce their turnovers and I'm looking for more people to step up for us, so we have more offense."

Not only will Dartmouth have seen new faces in Kasey Crockett (Southfield, Mich.), Daisy Jordan (Worcester, Mass.), Kaitana Martinez (Hailey, Idaho), Lakin Roland (Jeffersonville, Ind.), Sofia Roman (White Plains, N.Y.), Lauren Taiclet (Wellesley, Mass.) and Jordyn Turner (Plymouth Meeting, Pa.), they will also be welcoming volunteer assistant coach Andrea Woodbury.  Woodbury has 23 years of collegiate experience and brings a strong work ethic to the Dartmouth sidelines.

"She has a really unique skill set," said Wielgus. She's been an assistant for a long time and brings a really good background in player development. She's been doing the nuts and bolts of the program at Siena for a long time and they've had a great solid program. She's a quiet, hard working person. There are so many characters in this profession; so many queen bees and she's the worker bee and we're glad to have her"

The Big Green will have plenty of opportunities to showcase the 2012-13 squad to the Upper Valley with 13 home games on tap. "Our young team will be challenge early and often and at home," said Wielgus. " There will be some big name non-conference opponents making the trip to Hanover this winter, including BYU, Syracuse and Hartford. Villanova, Duquesne and Delaware will also head to Leede for the 36th annual Blue Sky Classic - the longest running women's collegiate basketball tournament.

With the season just around the corner, look for the Big Green to take it up a level and make sure you have a front row seat for all the action in 2012-13. Go Big Green!