The Castleton State College men’s and women’s basketball teams hit the road Nov. 15, kicking off the 2008 basketball season. The lady Spartans begin their season at the College of Saint Joseph in Rutland. Last year, Castleton beat the Fighting Saints, who, according to Castleton head coach Tim Barrett, graduated several players last year. But the Spartans are not looking past CSJ.
“It’s the beginning of the season,” said Coach Barrett. “You never know what other programs brought in for new players.”
The Spartans have two new players this year: Christine Jaques, a freshman from Burlington High School, who Barrett hopes will step into a point guard role; and Tiffany LaFond, a transfer from Southern Maine. But Castleton, who was seeded first in the North Atlantic Conference, last year with a 19-8 record, did not graduate a single player. The lineup is loaded with seven seniors, including last year’s 1st team All-Conference player, Jessica Banks.
The lady Spartans were upset in the semi-finals last year by #4 seeded; Becker College, and this winter the team is looking for revenge. The outlook is good, and Barrett is optimistic about where the season is headed already
“Players are working hard and worked hard in the off season to get better,” said Barrett.
Barrett believes that this year will be a tough one for the lady Spartans, whose schedule includes many teams that made a run in the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament last year. Barrett said that the team’s toughest competition will probably be Maine Maritime, Husson, and University of Maine Farmington.
“There will be a lot of great basketball games,” said Barrett.
The team will take one game at a time, but will keep its eye on the prize: another chance at a NAC championship.
The Castleton men travel to Springfield College in Massachusetts to take part in the Tip-Off Tournament, which also will include Elms College and Regis College. But unlike the lady Spartans, the men’s team finds itself in a bit of a transition year.
“We lost a lot of experience,” said head coach Ted Shipley, who lost five players and 70 of the team’s average 83 points. Last year the Spartans finished the season 15-11 and made the conference playoffs. Only three upper classmen return from last year’s team to lead the Spartans, including lone senior Kevin Cayea. Nine new players join the team, including six freshmen. But Shipley has faith in his team.
“It will take time to get to where I think they can be,” said Shipley.
Castleton scrimmaged Southern Vermont College during the preseason, and, according to Shipley, the team “showed their youth.” But Shipley believes that by mid-season, the team will be a competitive one.
“The first 10 to 12 game could be rough,” he said, “but we’ll get to the point where we play good college basketball.
Castleton and Springfield have never met up before. The Pride, a team that went 9-16 last season, is also a fairly young team, led by only six upper classmen. Despite Springfield’s previous record, the Spartans are not overlooking their opening game, but they will not let their youth be a detriment to them either. The game plan:
“Scoring is going to have to be balanced and come from everyone,” said Shipley.
Both the men and women begin their home season Nov. 25 against Plymouth State. The lady Spartans play at 5:30, the men follow at 7:30.