The Seton Hall women's basketball team starts its 2009-2010 campaign this weekend, opening up with road contests against Rider and Marshall.
The Pirates officially tip off the season Friday in Lawrenceville, NJ, against Rider. It will be their first season opener on the road since the 2006-2007 season.
The Hall won last year's match-up at the Prudential Center, 64-48, and has won all six match-ups in the series history.
"It's going to be a little different because we're away," junior guard
Ebonie Williams said. "It's the first time in my career that I've gone away for the first game. As far as Friday goes though it's about us and what we do, not necessarily about them."
Williams, the team's leading scorer a year ago with 13.2 points per game, returns alongside seven other Pirates from last year's squad.
Seniors Nicole Emery, Letitia Curry, and Ashley Booker head a team made up of three players from each year of eligibility, including junior guard Jasmine Crew, who will sit out the season due to NCAA transfer regulations.
"I can't wait to get the season going," head coach Phyllis Mangina said. "We've got a blend of young talent and veterans. It's going to be an interesting year."
After Friday, the team heads down to Huntington, W.Va to take on a Marshall Thundering Herd team that was also defeated at the hands of the Pirates a year ago in South Orange, 73-52.
"They're young and everybody's back," Mangina said. "When people play Big East games against Big East teams you had better be prepared because they're going to come after you."
One player Mangina may count on heavily against Marshall and throughout the season is sophomore Kandice Green. A member of last year's Big East All-Freshman Team a year ago, Green posted 18 points and six rebounds against the Thundering Herd in last year's meeting.
Her play, as well as other forwards such as Emery and Curry, will be particularly important in light of the graduation of Noteisha Womack, the
Hall's leading rebounder a year ago at 10.6 per game.
"You can't replace her," Mangina said about Womack. "She's was one of the best rebounders in the country."
Mangina's solution for the loss of Womack's production could be team rebounding, with everyone expected to help shoulder the load.
"Everybody is chipping in with getting rebounds," Williams said. "I have to go get more and everyone's chipping away at her average."
The Pirates will begin a fresh season full of expectations this weekend but the message from Mangina to the team is simple: get better every single day.
"Friday's the beginning of everything," Williams said. "I'm anxious to see where we're at, but I'm a person that really goes day-to-day. When game time comes we'll focus on that, one day at a time."
Zack Cziryak can be reached at email@example.com