‘Motivated’ women’s basketball to kick off season with Thursday exhibition game

Isabella Schreck, Sports Editor

Seventh-year coach Todd Starkey said consistency is the key to his basketball team’s success – and that starts with him and his staff.

“It’s holding them to a level of play that we expect, and then their job is to follow suit,” he said. “We have to model consistency to them in a world that is very inconsistent.”

The women’s basketball program opens its season Thursday with a home exhibition game against Division II Mercyhurst, which finished 9-19 last year, at 5:30 p.m. in the M.A.C. Center.

KSU tied for sixth in the Mid-American Conference last season at 10-10 and 19-12 overall. The team made it to the second round of the WNIT.

This year, Kent State ranks 20th in the Mid-Major Preseason Top 25 Poll. Mid-American Conference coaches picked the Flashes to finish fourth in the conference in the preseason poll.

Senior forward Nila Blackford, who transferred to Xavier, is the only leading scorer not returning this season. She totaled 325 points and led the team in rebounds.

Eleven players return from last season.

Forward Lindsey Thall, forward-guard Annie Pavlansky and guard Hannah Young will play their fifth season for the Flashes.

Thall holds the program record for most 3-pointers and averaged 11.4 points per game last year – the second most from her team. Young averaged 23.9 minutes per game last season and started in all 30 games. Pavlansky played 55 minutes.

Young said her confidence has grown throughout her collegiate career.

“I feel really comfortable with my teammates and coaches,” she said. “I’ve built off that every single year.”

Senior guard Katie Shumate, who played the most last season and led KSU with 374 points, is back. Guard Clare Kelly, the team’s other returning fourth-year senior, started one game last season.

Junior guard Casey Santoro, who led her team in assists and was third in points at 313 last season, also returns along with sophomore forward Bridget Dunn, who tied with Thall for most 3-pointers.

Three freshmen join the team: Dionna Gray, Corynne Hauser and Tatiana Thomas.

Gray averaged 22 points a game last year and earned Gatorade’s West Virginia player of the year award. Hauser, a two-time Pennsylvania all-stater, averaged 25 points per game. Thomas, from the Chicago suburbs, averaged 11.6 points.

“We’re close outside of basketball, and that helps on the court,” Young said. “We really trust each other, and we know everyone is going to do their own role. As long as we can stay consistent in that, we’re going to do great this year.”

Mercyhurst’s point leader sophomore Grace Centrulla totaled 405 points last season. She returns with the Laker’s two other top scorers.

The Flashes start the regular season against Power 5 Florida State at 7 p.m. Nov. 10 in the M.A.C. Center.

Last season, the Seminoles went 17-14 and 10-8 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Two of their top scorers – both sophomores – are returning.

“Our team is super hungry,” Thall said. “Everybody’s motivated. We’re really looking forward to getting started.”

Isabella Schreck is sports editor. Contact her at [email protected]