LANCASTER, Pa. - With a steady increase of wins in each season since 2010 and back-to-back trips to the Centennial Conference (CC) semifinals, Franklin & Marshall's women's basketball team is poised to continue the upward trajectory of the program in 2012-13.
The Diplomats went 18-8 last season, their highest win total since 2007-08. F&M tallied a 15-5 record in the CC, earning the second seed and a first-round bye in the conference tournament. The Diplomats' .750 win percentage in CC play was the highest for the program since 2001-02.
Under the direction of head coach Kirsten Richter, who enters her third season at the helm, F&M has made continual improvement each year. Richter guided the Diplomats to a 14-13 mark and the program's first-ever win in the CC playoffs in her first year on the job. Last season, she led F&M back to the CC semifinals with an 18-8 record. Richter looks for that trend to continue but wants her team to focus on one day at a time.
"Our goal is to improve each day and to continue working to get better each practice so we can come together as a team," said Richter.
The Diplomats will have experience on their side with 10 players returning from last year's squad. Headlining that group is 2011-12 CC Player of the Year, Alexa Barbush.
The senior guard enters 2012-13 as the all-time leader in steals per game with 3.4. Last season, she led the team in points per game (16.2), steals per game (3.2) and free-throw percentage (.731), and was named one of three captains for the upcoming season.
Awards came pouring in for Barbush after her outstanding junior season. She was named a Fifth Team All-American, First Team All-Region and First Team All-CC selection. The accolades have continued into the preseason as both D3hoops.com and DIII News named her an All-American.
Last season, Barbush became the 13th player in Diplomats' history to reach the 1000-point plateau. She attained double-figure scoring 18 times during the year, including six 20-plus point performances.
"Alexa worked hard over the summer," said Richter. "She's a tremendous teammate and I expect her to grow into a greater leadership role this season."
Snyder started all 25 games at guard for F&M during her junior season. She averaged 8.8 points per game, good for fourth on the team. Named a team captain for this season, she ranks second in steals per game with 2.1 and fourth in assists per game with 2.0.
Bott, also a team captain, provided a spark off of the bench for the Diplomats last season. The senior forward appeared in every game, making one start. She hauled in 111 rebounds with a 4.3 rebounds per game average, which was third best on the team.
"Our seniors have been great leaders for us this offseason," said Richter. "They really set the tone in terms of hard work and positive encouragement."
McCarthy started 24 of the 25 games she appeared in during her sophomore season. She led the team in rebounds per game (9.2) and ranked third in points per game (9.4). The 6-0 forward earned CC Player of the Week honors in January after scoring a career-high 20 points against Dickinson (1/18).
Lisle appeared in 24 contests, making two starts. The junior forward was consistent from the floor, leading the team with a .476 field goal percentage on 82 attempts. She tallied 39 offensive rebounds during the year, finishing fourth on the team with a 1.6 per game average.
"Our junior's received some great experience last year," said Richter. "I expect them to build upon that confidence and become good contributors this season."
The freshmen class is made up of Emily Wetz, Hannah Rose Nussbaum, Caroline Studnicky and Natalie Guzikowski. The group arrives in Lancaster sporting impressive resumes and is already being lauded for the vigor they have infused into the squad.
"We have a great group of newcomers," said Richter. "They started out practice with a lot of energy and should blend seamlessly into the fabric of our team."
F&M is tasked with a difficult non-conference schedule in addition to its always-tough CC slate. The Diplomats square off against two teams ranked in the preseason top-25. They face No. 18 York (Pa.) on Dec. 4 before going against No. 10 Lebanon Valley on Jan. 2.
F&M kicks off its season Saturday when the Diplomats host the annual Terry Greene Memorial Tournament. F&M plays its first game against Lycoming on Saturday at 3:00 p.m., before taking on Elizabethtown on Sunday at 3:00 p.m.