Emily Daniel and Gabby Flinchum are the only starters returning to the Lady Rams from last year’s 20-11 record team. That senior-laden team gave Melanie Ford, now beginning her fourth season as Shepherd’s head coach, her first 20-win season.
Ford was an assistant for seven years before moving to the head coach’s chair on an interim basis when Jodie Runner left the Shepherd job. The interim tag was removed before her second season in 2010-11.
Ford’s team won its way to the WVIAC semifinals last season before being tripped.
Even though there are five freshmen and two first-year transfers on this year’s 15-player roster, conference coaches have selected Shepherd to finish sixth for the 2012-13 campaign.
Daniel and Flincham are the only starters from the 20-win team.
Others who contributed last year are sophomore Rachel Johnson, senior Priscilla Moseh, sophomore Alex Wheatland, junior Jimyse Brown, senior Alex Tamez, and junior Morgan Johnson.
Daniel was selected to the WVIAC’s all-league second team after averaging 12.4 points and 7.5 rebounds a game. She made nearly 52 percent of her field goal attempts and 76 percent of her free throws.
Flinchum was selected to the conference’s All-Freshmen team with her 8.2 points and 5.5 rebounds per game showing. The 6-foot-3 center’s only real problem was with personal fouls.
Johnson played 14 minutes a game and Moseh played 13 minutes a game as reserve guards.
Brown is a center who has often given the Lady Rams an instant jolt of inside hustle and helped energize the homeside crowd.
This season’s two transfers are junior guard Dezi Clinton, who played Potomac State after graduating from Jefferson High, and sophomore Jazmin Tolson from Chowan.
The five freshmen include 6-foot-1 Kristina Prange from Damascus High, Molly Rohling from Wilmington (NC) Christian Academy, Cara Mason from Urbana High, Hailey Brown from Annandale High, and Sammy Bane from Middleburg (Va.) Academy.
Players not returning from a year ago are 2012 seniors Jenn Prine, Hannah Safren, Shelby Fayak, Katie Biggs, and Melissa Furr.
Ford’s overall record is 52-36 and she has recorded winning seasons in each of her three years as the head coach.
Shepherd’s season begins on the road in Belmont, California with a two-game tournament at Notre Dame de Namur. The season opener is against Pacific Union on Nov. 16 and the next day Shepherd will play Cal State Monterey Bay in the same tournament.
The home opener is a WVIAC game against Charleston on Saturday, Dec. 1 at 2 p.m. Two other home dates — versus Davis & Elkins on Saturday, Dec. 8 at 2 p.m. and against Holy Family on Saturday, Dec. 15 at 2 p.m. — are the only other first-semester games at the Butcher Center.
Inexperienced guards will be a prime concern. As will be most of the first-year bench.
Daniel could provide an all-conference type season. And she might need to for Shepherd to contend as well as they did last season. Flinchum has to be free of personal fouls so can stay on the floor for more minutes. And both Moseh and Rachel Johnson have to take long steps forward to help with the scoring and floor generalship.
Fairmont was the conference coach’s choice to win the WVIAC’s final season of games.
And Shepherd will want to surprise the league’s contenders again.