BRADFORD, Pa. – The University of Pittsburgh at Bradford women's basketball team will begin its 2017-18 season Wednesday night as it plays host to Mansfield at the KOA Arena.
Pitt-Bradford will be led by first-year Head Coach Sharay Hall, who most recently served as an assistant women's basketball coach West Virginia Wesleyan College (Division II). In her playing days, Hall was a PSAC Second Team All-Conference selection her senior year at Lock Haven.
Hall takes over a program that finished 16-11 overall and 12-6 in conference games in 2016-17, tied for second in the AMCC. The women's basketball coaches of the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference voted the Panthers to finish second in the 2017-18 Preseason Coaches' Poll.
"Pitt-Bradford is a successful program that has been in the top three in the conference for many consecutive years," Hall said. "It's my goal to get over the hump and win a championship, and I think if this group buys in and lives up to its potential, we can compete for a conference title."
Vital to the Panthers' success is the 2016-17 AMCC Player of the Year and 2017-18 Preseason Player of the Year Ali Rinfrette, who returns for her senior year. The Bradford native enters the season with 1,514 career points, just 96 points shy of the Pitt-Bradford all-time record held by Diane Eggleton (1,610).
"The most important thing about Ali is she knows how to win, how to get the job done," Hall said of her senior guard, who led the AMCC with a 38.4 three-point field goal percentage and averaged 21.6 points per game last season. "She's a great scorer, but also a great leader. She can still take her game to the next level, as she's working hard every day to further develop her game and keep improving."
Joining Rinfrette as returners are juniors Anna Colebert (6.9 points per game) and Jennifer Isenberg (4.0 ppg), and sophomores Allison Guengerich (2.9 ppg), Lyric Collins (0.4 ppg) and Shirleah Ragin (7.4 ppg).
"Anna is up there in terms of the hardest-working players on our team," Hall said. "She will see a lot of minutes and be an important part of our backcourt, at times running the point. And Jennifer, coming off a pair of knee injuries and this being her first year fully on the court, it's her time to finally blossom. She looks great, she's in shape and her knee is strong."
Junior Mariah Monroe (1.8 ppg) rejoins the program after playing her freshman season in 2015-16.
Among the returners are seven new faces for the Panthers. Freshmen Shaelyn Snipes (Upper Marlboro, Md.), Aria Alston-Smith (Pittsburgh, Pa.), Bri Wells (Bradford, Pa.), Brittany Button (Richburg, N.Y.) and Kelsey Thompson (Portville, N.Y.) join the team, while junior Etreece Adams (Philadelphia, Pa.) and sophomore Shana Ross (Philadelphia, Pa.) round out the newcomers.
With a young team and many newcomers, Hall will rely upon production from the first-year players right away, but some of their high-skill level will make that much easier.
"Bri is someone who has the potential to be an All-Conference player right from the start of her four years here," Hall said of the freshman guard. "And Etreece is someone that could be a powerhouse in the AMCC as she continues to develop her post presence."
The talented newcomers mixed with the experience and offensive firepower returning has Hall believing the Panthers have all the necessary pieces in place to compete with the best of the AMCC.
"We have many new faces, but there are a lot of amazing things these newcomers bring to the program," Hall concluded. "At the end of the day, the goal is to win a championship. It's all about learning and adjusting to each other, getting better day by day. Once we develop and are at full-go, we'll put ourselves in a great position to potentially win the conference championship."
After the matchup with Mansfield, the Panthers will play three games in the Jim Crawley Tip-Off Tournament on Nov. 17-18. Pitt-Bradford will then face a conference opponent in 18 of its 21 remaining regular-season games.
Pitt-Bradford's 2017-18 schedule features 11 home games at the KOA Arena.
Wednesday's game will begin at 7 p.m.
About Mansfield (Division II):
- The Mansfield Mountaineers come to the KOA Arena having played two games in the 2017-18 season already, splitting its two matchups in the PSAC-MEC Conference Challenge this past weekend. In its season opener on Saturday, Mansfield captured a 71-66 win over West Virginia State before falling to West Virginia Wesleyan, 58-43, Sunday.
- The Mountaineers are coming off a 5-21 season last year. Mansfield topped the Panthers, 69-51, in their Dec. 2 showdown at the Decker Gymnasium.
- Alyssa Mullins is the team's top scorer through the first two games, dropping 28 points against West Virginia State.
- Brielle Kelly is the team's top returning scorer, averaging 13.8 points per game in 2016-17. So far this year, she's averaging 15.5 points per game in the team's first two games. Kelly also led the team with 7.9 rebounds per game last season.