New season, new goals, and new faces. The 2012-13 McMaster Marauders women’s basketball campaign is set to be a minor restart for the program but that doesn’t mean that this season will be a write-off.

The team says goodbye to Taylor Chiarot, one of the finest players to don the Maroon and Grey for the Marauders. Filling her position won’t happen overnight, but that isn’t discouraging the team. “All the players on this team will comment on it: there is something special about this team,” said Coach Theresa Burns on the locker room chemistry of this team.

With only three players in their fourth year and the rest being a mix of first, second and third years, the word “young” is being thrown around to describe the McMaster squad. But age may not be the detractor some think, as Mac isn’t using age for any kind of measurement of skill. Look at their preseason play: the leading scorer was rookie Danielle Boiago, a home-grown point guard with a knack for getting to the free throw line and finding her shooting touch early in games. Next on the scoring list is a second year guard, Isabel Ormond.

To cope with the struggles a young team can have, Coach Burns is taking small steps to build towards a larger goal. “We get our players to focus everyday on small goals. We give goals every day and every practice. We’re very internally focussed,” said Burns.

These goals started after the 2012 spring exam schedule. The team was back in the gym with the strength and conditioning staff, bringing their fitness levels to new heights in order to prepare for the upcoming season. The time spent in the David Braley Athletic Centre has paid off, and the team looks to be in mid-season form to tip-off the season.

Although the team has had a strong preseason showing with their young players, the importance of the upper year players cannot be ignored. Heather Milligan will be relied upon for both her post presence and her leadership. One of the three fourth years, Milligan has emerged as the veteran voice for the team and has been active on both ends of the court throughout the exhibition games. Vanessa Bonomo, another fourth year will be relied on heavily for consistent play. Her decision-making in the backcourt will be an x-factor early in the season as young guards get used to the pace of the university competition.

Speaking of pace, look for the Marauders to push the ball up the court every opportunity they can. The team’s formula for getting out in transition will be defence and forcing turnovers, which is a huge reason for the fitness focus of the offseason. Getting easy fast break points will be key to breeding confidence in a young team, and Burns has tailored the system to accomplish that.

The story of the 2012-2013 campaign will be how fast the Marauders can put all the pieces together. The team cannot afford a slow start to the season based on the competitiveness of this year’s OUA season.

“It’s a total dogfight. Every game will have such an effect on the standings,” said Coach Burns.

To start the season, the OUA contains three of the top-ten ranked CIS teams: No.1 Windsor Lancers, No.4 Carleton Ravens and No.9 Laurier Golden Hawks. Fortunately for McMaster, they’ll only have to take on the Ravens before the winter exam break.

Coach Burns’ objective for the year is simple: “The goal is always to win a championship. That can be a cliché, a lot of people talk about that. But I feel like this year, as much as any year we’ve had here, we’re building towards that.” The age of the roster speaks to this too, with a young roster with a high ceiling.

The upcoming season is difficult to predict. Mac’s preseason gives fans hope, especially after a narrow loss to the University of Victoria. But exhibition results are not a sure bet and with an impending learning curve for the first year players, where McMaster will be in March is unpredictable. Basketball action tips off Friday against the York Lions at 6 p.m., followed by a Saturday match against the Laurentian Lady Voyageurs at 6 p.m. also.

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