The Central Connecticut women's basketball team will open the 2013-14 season tonight at the University of Central Florida. Beryl Piper enters her seventh season as the head coach of her alma mater with a roster that features 11 returning players, including three starters from last season.
Notes on tonight's game...
Today • The Blue Devils travel to Orlando, FL, to open the 2013-14 season against the Knights of UCF. This is the first ever meeting between the Blue Devils and the Knights. It is also CCSU's first game against the American Athletic Conference, which formed in July. The Blue Devils finished last season with a 16-14 record and tied for fourth in the Northeast Conference standings. CCSU was the #5 seed in the NEC Tournament and fell to the #4 seed Red Flash of Saint Francis U. The Knights finished last season with a 16-18 record and were the #8 seed in the Conference USA Tournament. UCF made a run to the title game, but fell short of a championship.
Series History • This is the first meeting between the Blue Devils and the Knights of UCF.
NEC "Social" Media Day • The Northeast Conference held its second annual "social" media day on Tuesday, Oct. 22, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY. The event was streamed live on NECFrontRow.com, the broadcast featured interviews with all of the conference's head coaches and many of the top players on the circuit.
Who is Back • The Blue Devils return 11 players from last year's squad, including three starters. Seniors Jessica Babe and Jaleen Thomas and junior Kaley Watras. Senior Lauren Arbogast saw extensive action off the bench last season as CCSU's sixth-women and worked her way into the starting line-up 12 times. Also returning are junior Johnna Fisher, sophomores Raven Makins, Tejahne Malone, Kayla Miller, Nicole Ferguson and Amanda Harrington. Senior Brooke Bailey will also return to action after sitting out last season.
Who is Gone • The Blue Devils lost Jaclyn Babe, Kirsten Daamen and Jameilia Dillon to graduation. Babe played only two seasons with CCSU, but became one of the program's elite scorers and was a First Team All-NEC selection last season after scoring 474 points. Daamen, CCSU's career leader in blocked shots with 200, was a defensive force for CCSU in the paint over her four seasons. Dillon provided CCSU with valuable minutes off the bench in in a spot start roll over her career.
Top Returning Player • Senior guard Jessica Babe is CCSU's top returning player for the 2013-14 season. Babe led the team in rebounds (7.3 rbs/g) and assists (3.63 asts/g) last season and is second among returning scorers (9.0 pts/g). She posted totals of 220 rebounds, 109 assists and 270 points as a junior. She also had 67 steals a year ago. Another strength for Babe is her free throw shooting, she connected on 71-of-87 attempts last season a 81.6% mark from the free throw line.
The Captains • Seniors Jaleen Thomas and Jessica Babe were selected as team captains for the 2013-14 season by their peers. Babe and Thomas are both entering their fourth season with the Blue Devils and both were starters last season.
The Schedule • The Blue Devils will play 20 different teams during the 2013-14 regular season. CCSU will open with games at American Athletic Conference members Central Florida and South Florida. America East members New Hampshire & UMass-Lowell will visit Detrick Gym, while CCSU plays at Hartford and Vermont. CCSU will play a pair of Atlantic-10 teams, with a home game against URI and a road trip to La Salle. The Blue Devils will host Siena and visit Rider of the MAAC. With a home game against Colonial Athletic Association member Hofstra serving as the final non-conference game of the season.
Scoring Points • The Blue Devils return 56.5% of their points from last season. The biggest question mark will be replacing the scoring of Jaclyn Babe who posted a team-high 16.3 points per game.
Sixth in Three Stats • Jessica Babe finished last season ranked sixth in the Northeast Conference in rebounds (7.3), assists (3.63) and steals (2.23) per game.
Non-Conference Last Season • The Blue Devils finished non-conference play last season with a 6-6 record. The Blue Devils posted two victories over Atlantic 10 members, two over America East members, one MAAC and one MEAC. Two of the Blue Devils' losses came to nationally ranked Texas and the University of Miami. Jessica Babe was the Blue Devils' second leading scorer in non-conference games last season at 9.6 points per game. Lauren Arbogast (7.3) and Kaley Watras were the fourth and fifth scores in non-conference last season.
Coach Piper In Openers • Beryl Piper is 3-3 in season openers as the head coach of the Blue Devils. She dropped the season opener in each of her first three season, but has won the opening game the last three years. CCSU has won the first two games of the season each of the last three years.
NEC Preseason Poll • The Blue Devils were picked fifth in the NEC Preseason Coaches' Poll. Robert Morris was selected first, followed by Sacred Heart, Mount St. Mary's and Saint Francis U. St. Francis Brooklyn, Bryant, LIU Brooklyn, Fairleigh Dickinson and Wagner filled out the bottom half of the poll. Robert Morris collected five first place votes with the remaining five votes split between Sacred Heart (3), Mount (1) and Saint Francis U (1).