By Jim Fenton, The Enterprise (Brockton)
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- After losing four key rotation players to graduation, the Bridgewater State University women's basketball team with have a different look.
Chanelle Melton of Brockton, who ranks 14th on the program's all-time scoring list with 1,048 points, and Rhiana Page combined to make 47 starts last season while Megan Ianiro started 16 of her 25 games and Jennifer Whyte started 12 of 21 games.
The Bears begin the season on Tuesday night with a road game against UMass Dartmouth at 5:30 p.m. Their home opener is Nov. 29 against Suffolk University.
"We have some experienced kids back, but they're experienced in a different way," said Casey, who has six freshmen and nine returning players. "They're not used to the starting role, for sure. They just have to be the vocal leaders now. Instead of just playing, they have to be the ones who have to kind of take charge on the court."
DaSilva is the leading returning scorer after averaging 9.3 points as a junior when she had a team-high 59 steals in 27 games. Carter made 23 starts and averaged 4.8 points.
They will be joined in the starting lineup by junior Nicole Bostick, a Coyle-Cassidy graduate, who was limited to 12 games last season, and senior captain Olivia DelGrosso, who made three starts and appeared in 24 games.
The fifth starter will either be senior Kailyn Aguiar, who averaged 6.4 rebounds and 5.4 points in 27 games, or sophomore Destiny Fitzgerald, who averaged 5.9 points and 3.6 rebounds in 22 games with six starts.
"It'll take a little time to get everyone on the same page, get team chemistry," said Casey. "We're still working on that. It looks good. They're working hard. It'll be interesting to see where we're at. We know we still have a lot of work to do."
Bridgewater State figures to have a balanced offense, and the Bears have been working on being an aggressive defensive team.
"We've been really focusing defensively just because our points could potentially come from any four or five different players each night," said Casey. "We don't have a senior, like a Jenna Williamson (the program's all-time leading scorer) who could give us 20 points.
"The offense is going to be spread out, and with that, we had to shift the focus defensively. We want to make it extremely different to score. We'll press a little bit, get some steals and easy layups to get us into our offense."
Bridgewater State is picked to finish fourth in the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference Preseason Coaches Poll.
The Bears went 11-16 last season, including 6-6 in the conference, and lost in the semifinal round of the MASCAC tournament for the third year in a row.
After making five straight trips to the NCAA Division 3 tourney, Bridgewater State has gone 13-13, 12-15 and 11-16. It is the first time the Bears have had back-to-back losing records since the 1990s.