- Family Features
- Business Directory
- Gallery Of Homes
- Subscribe Now!
- Place A Classified Ad
- New! Digital e-Edition
Mason expects conference crown
Nov 06, 2006 12:00 am
Coming off back-to-back 20-win seasons and NAIA National Tournament appearances, Cumberland coach Clint Mason is expecting at least a three-peat in those accomplishments and thinks his Lady Bulldogs can do even more.
"The expectations are very high," said Mason, who opens his fourth season as Cumberland coach at 2 p.m. today when the Lady Bulldogs take on Loyola (of New Orleans) in the Lionbacker Classic at Freed-Hardeman. "The bar is set high.
"Our goal is to win the conference championship."
Cumberland, ranked 13th in the preseason NAIA poll released earlier this week, is picked to finish third in the TranSouth Conference behind two-time defending national champion Union and Freed-Hardeman.
"With five of our teams being ranked in the top 25, winning the conference championship means we ought to be competing for the national title," Mason said. "Union has won the national championship back-to-back years. I'm not saying we're going to win it all.
"(But) anything short of a sweet 16 or better should mean we underachieved."
Union, Freed-Hardeman and Trevecca were the glass ceiling Cumberland could never crack last year. But Trevecca, coached by Mt. Juliet's Gary VanAtta, lost four starters, including two All-Americans, from last year's 31-5 team and is picked to finish fourth this time.
"Last year the difference was those three had senior leadership," Mason said. "This is our year. We have six seniors. It's time we stepped it up.
"I'm going to be disappointed if we don't, at least one time, beat Union, Trevecca and Freed."
Cumberland returns four starters from last year's 23-9 team, led by All-TSC and honorable mention All-American forwards Renae Williams and C'Kala Humes. Williams led the Lady Bulldogs with 14.5 points per game last year. Senior post Tomika Hall averaged 8.4 rebounds while four-year starting point guard Ashley Cross passed for 6.2 assists per game in 2005-06.
Off the bench will come Isabelli Cunico, who shot over 45 percent from three-point range and averaged 7.9 points per game in her first CU season, Kari Maddox and Lebanon junior Kristin Kirkland.
"Ou chemistry is growing day in and day out," Mason said. "We have a lot better chemistry than last year.
"We got a lot of depth on that bench."
That depth should get even better next month when 5-8 guard Kiana Robinson makes her eagerly-anticipated Lady Bulldog debut. The former Connecticut Lady Husky, who last played at Shelton State (Ala.) Community College, has a partial ACL tear and a torn MCL. Mason said she is practicing 15-20 minutes per day.
"She just brings big-time collegiate experience playing basketball to our level," Mason said.
The coach said he was pleased with the No. 13 preseason ranking as a starting point.
"We have a lot of depth and experience," Mason said. "We just got to put it together on the court."
Sports Editor Andy Reed can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 17 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.