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St. Vincent women reload after taking graduation hit

| Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013, 10:18 p.m.
Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
St. Vincent forward Grant Latus pulls up to shoot during practice on October 23, 2013 in Unity Township.

From the outside looking in, the St. Vincent women's basketball team is rebuilding.

After finishing 20-7 overall and 15-3 in the PAC last season, the Bearcats fell to Washington & Jefferson in the PAC semifinals.

Then they lost about 34 points per game when forwards Devin McGrath (16.1 ppg), Jordan Clinton (6.6 ppg) and Ariel Rocco (4.7 ppg) and guard Melissa Mansur (6.9 ppg) graduated.

But the Bearcats aren't viewing their current team the way some of their opponents might be.

“We're extremely young, but with that being said, it's extremely exciting,” coach Jimmy Petruska said. “I love to be the underdog.”

Only three players on the roster have multiple years of college experience.

It has translated to a willingness to be taught, Petruska said.

“Already I see great attitudes,” Petruska said. “I see great work ethics. And right now, they're in the palm of my hand.

“They're soaking up every word that I say.”

St. Vincent returns its second-leading scorer and primary ball-handler, Elle Collins. As a sophomore last year, she was second on the team with 9.2 points per game, and added 2.0 rebounds and 1.6 assists.

“I think we're in good shape, and our bench is very deep now,” Collins said.

“Despite the fact that a lot of those girls are underclassmen, I think the confidence in those girls is just going to get greater and greater.”

Assisting Collins in running the offense is junior Jessica Welch, who averaged 3.8 points last year.

“I'll be honest,” Welch said. “I was like, ‘Oh, we're going to be so young. We'll see how having so many freshmen will (be).' ”

Any doubts that she had coming into the season have since been erased, she said.

Although St. Vincent returns 6-foot-2 senior forward Taylor Mathers — who was third on the team with 7.1 points per game last season — the lineup as a whole is much smaller this season, leading to a faster pace.

“I love fast breaks,” Collins said.

“If we didn't have to set up an offense ever, that would be totally fine with me.”

Gary Horvath is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at ghorvath@tribweb.com.

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