GOLDEN EAGLE: Mitchell has Golden Eagles on right track

For Terri Mitchell’s Marquette team, it can’t get much worse than last season.

It will not be anywhere near that bad this season.

Last season, Mitchell’s team went 14-17 overall and 4-12 in the Big East. It was expected to be a rebuilding year for the team, but not nearly to that extent.

The Golden Eagles only had one upperclassman on their roster, then-junior forward Sarina Simmons, who is this team’s only senior. They relied on freshmen and sophomores throughout the campaign and did not have success doing so.

After starting Big East play 3-1, they finished 2-12, including two games in the Big East Tournament.

At the time, it didn’t seem like there was much good to come from the season. While inexperienced players received more playing time, what good could come of losing over and over by double digits?

Well, there are plenty of reasons for optimism coming into the season. There are plenty of established interior players, with forward Katherine Plouffe entering her junior season coming off an impressive statistical year as a sophomore. Sophomore center Chelsie Butler will hope to make a step forward this season as well.

On the perimeter, junior guard Gabi Minix will continue to run the team’s offense, which turned the ball over way too much last season. Marquette consistently had games with more than 20 turnovers, which can lead to nothing good.

Sophomore guard Arlesia Morse is the team’s sharpshooter and a solid candidate to be Marquette’s leading scorer.

Freshman guard Ashley Santos was a McDonald’s All-American nominee and is likely to help Morse on the perimeter and take a bit of the scoring burden. Junior guard Katie Young should be healthy and will be a nice option off the bench.

The Golden Eagles are going to have depth. There is no doubt about that. They probably will even have the talent necessary to compete with any team on any given night in the Big East.

How high can this Golden Eagles team soar? Well, it’s likely not going to be as high as the teams of 2009-10 or 2010-11 that made the NCAA Tournament, but it will be competitive in one of the country’s best conferences.

Will Marquette be competing for the conference championship? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be playing an exciting brand of basketball, with a few players who will really catch your eye.

During games, Simmons is one of those players. She can frustrate you, wow you with her athleticism and then make you think, “Huh?” all in one possession.

Simmons was moved out to the perimeter as more of a small forward last season and took a bit of time to adjust to her new position. Her inconsistency has been well documented here at Marquette, and as the team’s most talented player, Simmons may be the key for the Golden Eagles this season. If she is on her game and finds her groove, Marquette will be one of the Big East’s tougher teams to beat.

With all the doubts surrounding this team, one thing is definitely for sure, and that is the quality of coach Marquette has. Mitchell is one of the best and most respected coaches in the country. She has rebuilt a team from scratch before.

So while preseason expectations aren’t going to have Marquette winning the Big East, stay calm, Golden Eagles. Your women’s basketball team is on the right track, and there is no doubt about it.

It is only a matter of time, maybe even a few months if you’re feeling ambitious, until Mitchell has this team competing with the best in the Big East again.

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