Oddis expecting to play bigger role as UPG women aim for postseason
Kelsey Oddis took up cross country to stay in shape for basketball season. Turns out the Pitt-Greensburg junior is a natural running over natural terrain. She won an invitational race this season and made all-conference.
But basketball beckons again, and Oddis will be the pacesetter for her teammates as they try to run through the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference.
The Burrell graduate has the potential to be one of the top players in the conference.
“She is full of confidence,” UPG coach Erin Eaton said of Oddis, who averaged 13.4 points and 8.4 rebounds last season to earn second-team all-AMCC honors. “When she came here, I think she was missing that killer instinct. But cross country gave her an edge. It's unique these days to have an all-conference player in two sports. She is an outstanding leader.”
Oddis, one of four returning starters, averaged 22 points in a pair of scrimmages, the latter a sub-par performance by the Bobcats against visiting Bethany that prompted a lengthy post-game meeting in the team room.
That was because UPG played well below its potential, Eaton said.
“This is the most experience we have back in my seven years here,” she said. “We want to get back to AMCC championship weekend. We think we can be a top-four team.”
Oddis defers to the seniors, much like players did to her in her last season of high school basketball but does expect to be a key contributor.
“We have three really great seniors that are leading the program and have been leading since the end of last year,” Oddis said. “But all of us upperclassmen have tried to lead by example this season in hopes that the younger girls will follow. Our program has always been known for working hard and having a blue-collar work ethic and that's what helps us be so successful.”
Eaton said postseason experience at the high-school level could pay dividends for the Bobcats. Oddis was on four PIAA playoff teams at Burrell. Senior twin guards Lyndy and Carly Baer won back-to-back District 6 titles at Conemaugh Township.
At 5-foot-10 and 6-0, senior Casey Hamilton (Hempfield) and junior Sylvia Stuart bring size to the frontcourt, which also will get a boost from freshman Jenna Cole, who played on Norwin's WPIAL Class AAAA championship team last year.
“Jenna is the most skilled post player I've had here,” Eaton said.
Eaton said freshman Paige Burk (Claysburg-Kimmel) will provide perimeter points.
“Jenna and Paige will provide a nice one-two punch,” Eaton said. “They are both capable to scoring 1,000 points here.”
UPG made the AMCC Tournament in 2014-15 and won two games before falling to La Roche in the finals. The Bobcats have made the playoffs six straight seasons.
“Our seniors remember what that was like,” Eaton said. “They know how great it would be to get back there.”
The team also had to deal with not having a home gym late last season, following the broken sprinkler head during a baseball practice. But Eaton said that had nothing to do with the Bobcats finishing 10-16 and 8-10 in the AMCC.
“That's not an excuse,” she said. “It was tough having senior night at Mt. Aloysius, but you still had to go out and win games.”
UPG opens the season Tuesday night at Grove City.
Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review staff writer.