Pitt women lose star player for season
The Pitt women's basketball team hasn't yet played a regular-season game, but the Panthers have already suffered a huge loss.
Point guard Mallorie Winn, a preseason Big East Conference first-team selection, tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee in practice Thursday. She will miss the entire season.
"The team was devastated when I told them," Pitt coach Agnus Berenato said. "I have seen this injury before, but I have never seen it affect a team the way it has this team.
"But I told them, 'You have to learn to handle adversity.' I know this is going to be hard, but I believe, when a door shuts, a window opens. Our goals have not changed."
Berenato will now rely on three returning starters from a 22-11 team that advanced to the Women's National Invitation Tournament last season. This year's squad hopes to earn the school's first NCAA Tournament invitation, especially since Pitt is playing host to first- and second-round games in March.
Big East preseason first-team selection Marcedes Walker, a 6-foot-3 junior center, and sophomore guards Shavonte Zellous and Xenia Stewart, will be directed at the point by 5-7 freshman Jania Sims or 5-6 junior guard Karlyle Lim.
"Jania and Karlyle came to Pitt to play," said Berenato, whose Panthers open the season on Nov. 15 against California (Pa.) at 7 p.m. at Petersen Events Center. "We have to pull together as a team and get past this. I feel confident in the point guards we have.
"I also know Mallorie will not let this team get down. She is so much about this team being successful. She is still a big part of this team."
Winn, who was injured on a jump stop for a pull-up jump shot, most likely will have surgery later this month. Berenato said she and Winn agreed that being close to some of the best medical care in the country at UPMC would make things go more smoothly.
Pitt plans to file a petition with the NCAA for a sixth season for Winn. Winn used a redshirt season after transferring to Pitt from Georgia Tech in 2004.
The 5-foot-11 senior averaged 15.8 points last season, which ranked second on the team.
Berenato said she had never petitioned the NCAA before for such a circumstance, but she's hopeful Winn would be awarded one more year of eligibility.
"Mallorie is the consummate student-athlete," Berenato said. "She represents what the NCAA is all about. I would love to have her play next season.
"We cannot question why this happened. Things happen for a reason. You have to blind faith and keep moving forward."