The Herd hit the floor early Saturday morning, serving breakfast to fans and the media alike who came out early after a late night with the men's team Friday night during Thundering Herd Madness. Next Saturday, the Herd will serve breakfast for real, when The Locker Room Club hosts its annual pancake breakfast at Max's and Erma's at Pullman Square in downtown Huntington. The breakfast is only $5 per person, and the players and members of the coaching staff will serve fans from 8-10 a.m.
Chadwick, now in his seventh season with the Herd, saw not one; not two; not three; but four point guards go down last season and his team lost seven of the final eight games of the season. "We're very excited, we hope its going to be a great year," said Chadwick, 88-87 in his first six seasons but just 21-36 in years one and two. "We had a great recruiting year, and have got a very challenging schedule for these girls to attack, and we're so excited to get started."
Alyssa Hammond, who averaged 7.3 points per game, is one of Marshall's top returning players, who Coach Royce Chadwick will have to blend with seven new players for this season. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
Chadwick addressed that problem at point last season when he brought in Casey Baker, Sophie Lenard and Tania Walters at guard, plus gets Kizzy Hart back from an injury that kept her off the court all season. Even walk-on Rebecca Bays, from Roanoke, Virginia, is a guard. Her family just recently moved to Culloden, near Huntington. "If anyone in this building today was here last February to see (former MU senior forward) KaShawna Curry play point, they look out here and say, 'Oh, great, we won't have to see the power forward playing point guard this year', and let me knock on wood and hope that everyone stays healthy. I feel like that's our challenge. We knew we had point guard problems last year because we didn't have any depth, and we can't go through another year like that.
"We went out and signed some quality points guards. We have some guards we think that can put it on the floor, and make something happen and make everyone around them a little bit better." One of those "newcomers" is Kizzy Hart, who was forced to sit with injuries last season she had happen in the pre-season. Hart will be a senior, and the former junior college All-American is looking to get off to a fast start. "Our team is working together as a team and has been practicing hard, so we are looking for a better year and a faster start to the year," said Hart, who averaged 23.5 points per game, fourth in the nation, for Labette (Kan.) Community College. "This year we have more depth at point guard, at all the guard positions and in the post, so we'll be able to have someone step in at that position and immediately play."
Hart is one of the players who hope to make the Herd an faster team, a fast-breaking team in the Marshall tradition, for 2007-08. "We definitely want to be an up-tempo team," said Hart. "I think we have the guards to play at that speed." Chemistry is the big question for the Herd, as Chadwick will blend the seven newcomers with eight returning players. One of those is former Nitro High School guard Meg Withrow, who is the returning top scorer with 10 points per game to go with 3.5 assists, 2.6 rebounds and 1.7 steals a game.
Meg Withrow, shown driving the lane for two of her 15 points against West Virginia last year, is Marshall's leading returning scorer. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
Unfinished business might be the best way to talk about last season, according to Withrow. "We were tied for first when we had a couple of key losses, to UAB and ECU I really remember. Then Samis and me got injured and things began to unravel and no one on this team finished the way we wanted to." Meagan Samis, who like Withrow transferred to Marshall from UNC Wilmington, played the last half of the season with one hand in a cast. Withrow would just as soon not play as much as she had to last season, with a shoulder that needed injections of cortisone just to get her into the lineup the final 12 games of the season.
"Don't get me wrong," said Withrow, West Virginia's all-time leading scholastic scorer with 2,689 points for the Nitro Wildcats, near Charleston, "playing time is great but I don't want to get it that way. We have added a lot of guards with a lot of speed and who bring different capabilities to the roster, so I think we have the depth we need." Withrow and the Herd were only picked ninth in Thursday's pre-season coach's poll, and the junior said where you are selected to start is not as important as where you finish. "Pre-season polls like that are always based on the previous season. I think last year we were down near the bottom too, in the poll, and we came out early and showed everyone that we could be one of the top teams in Conference USA. I think we will do the same this year, because no one knows all the people we have who are new, players who will bring a lot more to the table than other people know about."
Marshall will open with an extremely early exhibition game, on October 31 against Kentucky State. Four days later, the Herd will host West Virginia Wesleyan and then open the season in the pre-season Women's National Invitational Tournament in Evansville against the Purple Aces. "We would have never have played the first exhibition so early, but on Nov. 9 with open in the WNIT. We felt we had to progress ten-times faster. We'll go twice (Saturday) and then twice the next day and give these girls a crash course. We as coaches can't make it so complex that the players will get confused. We'll try to keep it as simple as possible, and to get as many reps as possible, to play an exhibition in October. You've got to try some new things if you're going to grow as a team, a program and a person." The WNIT for Marshall is a first-ever appearance in the pre-season version and the first WNIT since the very first event in Cullowhee, N.C. back in the early 1970s in the pioneering days of women's college basketball at Marshall.
The Herd will have its home opener on November 24 with Niagara coming in, then host the Fifth Third/Marshall Classic on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1. The Herd will face Jackson State in the opener, then either Harvard or Pittsburgh, both of whom went to the NCAA Tournament, in round two. "Jam The Cam" will be on December 16 against the Naval Academy, then Marshall is not home again until the Conference USA opener with East Carolina on January 5, 2008. Season tickets are available by calling 1-800-THE HERD, going on-line to www.HerdZone.com or by visiting the Henderson Center Ticket Office Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. The team's booster club, The Locker Room Club, will sponsor a bus to the WNIT in Evansville, Indiana, leaving Noon on Tuesday, Nov. 9. The cost is $40 per person, and includes transportation and ticket to the WNIT. The bus will return to Huntington immediately after the 7 p.m. (EST) tip. Call the basketball office at 304-696-5445 for information, and seating is limited.