Women's Hoops: Meet the freshmen

Merideth Marsh, Amber Norton, Lauren Lueders, Jess Mooney and Ashlee Bridge are all newcomers to the Vanderbilt basketball squad. VandyMania's Whitney D. introduces you to all five and provides you with Coach Balcomb's comments on each of them.

#23 Merideth Marsh: 5-9 guard, Louisville, Kentucky

High School: Christian Academy of Louisville. Averaged 19.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 4.5 apg, and 2.4 spg as a four year starter. She was a teammate with Amber Norton on "The Family", one of the top AAU teams in the country and on the 2006 Kentucky All-Star team.

Key factor in her recruitment to Vanderbilt: Merideth impressed the Vanderbilt staff when her high school team, Christian Academy of Louisville, attended team camp at Vanderbilt during the summer before her senior year.

Her Vanderbilt teammates have nominated her for . . . Most Likely to Be a Coach, Most Shoes

Fun Fact: Merideth always uses two straws when she drinks anything.

Coach Balcomb on Marsh: I think Merideth is one of the smartest players who has come in here and has made the adjustment extremely fast as far as court knowledge and game knowledge. She's going to be a great coach on the floor, but in addition, she's tough and confident. She's already helping to coach the team. We already call her "Coach Mere". She's going to give us some great minutes, and that's going to be very important to us to keep Dee Davis healthy. Merideth has to play, and I think she's going to be ready to do so.

She's an over-achiever. She's not that fast, and she's not that tall. She was probably told by most people that she couldn't play at Vanderbilt or at this level and has always had to make up for that lack of strength -- she's not that strong either -- and of quickness and of height. So she's had to be smarter, and she's had to be tougher. She's extremely competitive, and also wants to be a coach. She wants to know and understand the game, and she correlates everything really well. Instead of just trying to do it the way you teach it, she knows why we're doing everything, and that's extremely important for a point guard.

"Coach Mere", Asst. Coach Lisa Cermignano, Coach Balcomb

Merideth Marsh

#25 Amber Norton: 6-1 forward, Louisville, Kentucky

High School: Assumption High School. Averaged 16.6 ppg and 7.5 rpg. She was teammates with Merideth Marsh on the "The Family", one of the top AAU teams in the country, and on the 2006 Kentucky All-Star team.

Key factor in her recruitment to Vanderbilt: Amber also impressed the Vanderbilt staff during team camp in the summer of 2005. Amber's team and Merideth's team met in the finals of the camp tournament.

Her Vanderbilt teammates have nominated her for . . . Most Talkative, Most Likely to Be on Reality TV

Fun Fact: Amber not only graduated from the same high school in Louisville as former Vanderbilt star Jenni Benningfield, she also shares the same birthday, October 6.

Coach Balcomb on Norton:. What I love about Amber is that she is not afraid of hard work. She runs every sprint like it's her last sprint. She almost goes too fast and has to slow down and read. But once Amber gets it, she's going to do great because she understands toughness. She's extremely physical. She loves to be inside and mix it up, and that is something that we have definitely needed. She has great hands. She can rebound. She can run. She just needs to slow down and learn the game. As soon as she does that, you'll start to see her make a major impact. You can't coach that kind of effort and that kind of toughness, and so we're really excited about Amber.

Amber Norton with Asst. Coach Stephanie Norman

Amber Norton

#25 Lauren Lueders: 5-8 guard, Saxony Lutheran, Jackson, Missouri

High School: Saxony Lutheran. Averaged 9.1 ppg and 6.0 apg playing on the boys team. Took part in the girls state all-star game and scored 16 points with 8 rebounds.

Key factor in her recruitment to Vanderbilt: Playing on a boys team limited Lauren's exposure to D1 coaches, so her coach, a former assistant D1 men's coach, helped her with the recruiting process. He targeted Vanderbilt as a good fit for her and attracted the attention of the coaching staff with a videotape.

Her Vanderbilt teammates have nominated her for . . . Best Style, Most Outgoing

Fun Fact: Lauren doesn't like anything red, like Fruit Punch Gatorade. If somebody gave her a hotdog with ketchup and mustard mixed together, she would take a bite if necessary to save the world, but she would prefer to put the mustard and ketchup separately on a plate and dip it in.

Coach Balcomb on Lueders:. Again, she's tough. She played with boys -- that's all I have to say. I think as a guard, she's going to be physical. She's probably the most physical guard we've brought in here. She's strong, and she also has the quickest release as a shooter. She's a very good shooter, but has an incredibly quick release and a good understanding of the game from playing with guys. They play more and understand more than girls do. Girls are more patterned.

Lauren Lueders and Asst. Coach Cermignano

Lauren Lueders (left) with Jen Risper

#20 Jess Mooney: 5-8 guard, Nashville, Tennessee

High School: Hillsboro High School. Averaged 17.5 ppg, 5.0 apg, and 3.5 spg as a four-year starter and led the team to their first-ever state tournament appearance.

Key factor in her recruitment to Vanderbilt: Jessica grew up as a Vanderbilt fan and always knew that if Vanderbilt offered her a scholarship to Vanderbilt, she'd become a 'Dore.

Her Vanderbilt teammates have nominated her for . . . Ideal Partner for the Amazing Race, Best Style

Fun Fact: Jess is related to former Vanderbilt great Charles Davis on her father's side of the family.

Coach Balcomb on Mooney: Jess Mooney adds a whole other dimension to Vanderbilt's attack, offensively and defensively. She's the fastest player that we've had. She just glides, she floats. She has great body control, so she just challenges everybody because of her athleticism, I think, again, with her it's going to be learning the game and using that talent within our system, and once she gets that, I think she can be a defensive stopper that we haven't had that the other programs have had,. We're looking for her to get 8 points on offense a game off of steals. We need to get more points in transition, and one way to do that is to get offense off your defense, which we didn't get any of last year. We were a better defensive team, but we didn't get offense off of it, like a lot of teams in the SEC. I think Jess adds that whole other dimension for us.

Jess Mooney

Jess Mooney (right) with Merideth Marsh

#11 Ashlee Bridge: 5-11 guard/forward, Cincinnati, Ohio

High School: Princeton High School. Career highs were 27 points, 10 rebounds, seven steals. She was one of 40 top high school players selected for USA Basketball's 2005 Youth Development Festival.

Key factor in her recruitment to Vanderbilt: When Ashlee was a freshman in high school, Dee Davis was her team's senior point guard. Ashlee hadn't known anything about Vanderbilt before Dee signed with the Commodores, and that's when she started to pay attention.

Her Vanderbilt teammates have nominated her for . . . Most Likely to Be on Reality TV, Best Singing Voice

Fun Fact: When Vanderbilt played Miami in Oxford, Ohio, Ashlee's high school team wore t-shirts spelling "V-A-N-D-E-R-B-I-L-T" on one side and "L-E-T-S-G-O-D-E-E!" on the other. Ashlee was the "A".

Coach Balcomb on Bridge: Ashlee Bridge is the same mold in that defensively she can add that same dimension, but we really have lacked a big 3-guard since Hillary Hager -- somebody that can rebound, can drive, can pullup, have the mid-range game. Ashlee is that player. Again, the learning curve is going to be the thing there in how quickly she learned to take her talent. Those two are extremely talented, but they've got to learn to be a part of the team and that might take some time.

Ashlee Bridge

Ashlee Bridge (center) with Tina Wirth and Amber Norton

Photos copyright 2006 by Whitney D for VandyMania.com.

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