OXFORD, Ohio - The Miami University women's basketball team takes the court for the first time on Sunday when it hosts Tiffin for its only exhibition contest. Game time is scheduled for 2 p.m. Admission is free, but for those who cannot be in attendance it can be seen live on the Miami All-Access subscription service. Tim Bray will have the call.
Fans are invited to arrive early to the game as the RedHawks will unveil their 2012 WNIT Banner prior to tipoff.
2012-13 Season Preview
The two most important elements to a successful season are usually talent, followed by experience. The 2012-13 version of the Miami University women's basketball team has plenty of both as it returns eight letterwinners from last season's WNIT squad, including two All-MAC performers. It also brings in a talented class of four freshmen, including 2012 Miss Indiana Basketball Jessica Rupright (Ossian, Ind.).
"We have a different mindset this season, we are not a rebuilding team that has something to prove," said head coach Maria Fantanarosa. "We are a team that has tasted success and has continued to raise the bar each season."
Taking advantage of that experience, the coaching staff is introducing some new wrinkles into the Miami offense. Coach Fantanarosa believes that these changes will make the team more explosive by making nearly everyone an option to score.
"We've changed our offensive philosophy to one that's going to make us a lot more versatile and hard to guard," commented Fantanarosa. That will mean we will be able to not only just use our physical abilities, but our knowledge as basketball players on the court."
Miami is coming off a 21-10 season and an 11-5 record in the MAC. The RedHawks finished second in the MAC East Division and fourth overall. The team was rewarded with a bid to the WNIT Tournament for the second time in school history. Coach Fantanarosa, who is the RedHawks' all-time winningest coach, earned her 200th victory at Miami with a 77-72 win over Indiana on Nov. 22. The dean of MAC women's basketball coaches, she enters her 15th season with a 218-199 record in charge of the 'Hawks.
Guard Courtney Osborn (Fishers, Ind.) and forward Kirsten Olowinski (Erie, Pa.) come into the season looking to secure their legacies with a MAC Championship. Osborn, who was named First-Team All-MAC last season after earning third team honors the previous two seasons, has recorded 1,575 career points. She is only 405 points shy of breaking the Miami all-time record for points scored, currently held by Amanda Jackson (2003-08) at 1,979. It is one of the eight different RedHawk records she might break during the 2012-13 season.
"Courtney has the ability to score in many different ways," said Fantanarosa. "She is a very competitive, unselfish leader who, because she is going in to her senior year, has a sense of urgency to put her mark on our program."
Olowinski was a Third-Team All-MAC selection last season. She was third on the team with an average of 11.2 points per game and led the team with a 9.9 rebounds per game average. Olowinski enters the 2012-13 season with 818 career rebounds. She is only 106 rebounds shy of breaking the all-time career record of Hall of Famer Monica Niemann (1991-95), who finished with 923. Olowinski also has 924 career points, needing 76 more to become the 21st member of Miami's 1,000-point club.
"Kirsten is a very versatile forward who is going to be able to take advantage of mismatches in the new offensive system," said Fantanarosa. "Obviously she is a very solid rebounder, but she is also one of the best passers on our team."
Miami's junior class features five players, including three forwards and two guards. Erica Almady (Cleveland, Ohio), Kelsey Simon (Vernon Hills, Ill.), Hannah Robertson (New Albany, Ohio) and Haley Robertson (New Albany, Ohio) each begin their third year in the program, while redshirt junior Kristin Judson (Bloomington, Ill.) begins her fourth. Judson provides depth to a deep forward rotation for the RedHawks. Last season she played in 21 games, averaging 1.1 points and 1.3 rebounds per contest.
"Kristin is a very smart offensive player and a skilled rebounder," said Fantanarosa. "She is a great face-the-basket player as well as a very strong, physical player inside."
Almady overcame an early injury last season to appear in 20 games while making two starts. She averaged 4.8 points per game and was third on the RedHawks with a 4.2 rebounds per game average. Despite being only 5-foot-11, Almady is willing to compete down low with much bigger players. As a result, she will be a contender for a starting forward position this season.
"Erica is probably our most skilled post player," said Fantanarosa. "She can score inside and will contribute to our offensive rebounding game."
Simon made big strides during her sophomore season. She appeared in 28 games, averaging 2.0 points per contest. Having worked hard on her game during the offseason, Coach Fantanarosa believes she could be in line for a breakout campaign.
"Kelsey has made the biggest improvement of any player from last year," commented Fantanarosa. "We've seen major gains in her strength, her knowledge of the game and her offensive skills. Kelsey's developed her abilities in both facing and with her back to the basket between the end of the postseason and now. She has been the biggest surprise to us as coaches."
Hannah Robertson started 28 games last season and was Miami's fourth-leading scorer with a 9.5 points per game average. She scored in double-digits in 13 games and is ready to take the next step as one of the RedHawks' primary offensive options.
"I believe this is going to be a breakout year for Hannah," said Fantanarosa. "Her success is because she uses her athleticism and her explosiveness to beat people. Hannah is an 'X' factor for us. She's the player that as she continues to compete and grow is going to take a lot of pressure off everyone else on our team."
Haley Robertson appeared in 29 games as one of the first guards off the bench during her sophomore season. A defensive game changer, she averaged 3.8 points per game last year. Coach Fantanarosa believes an improvement in her offensive game this season will help her take the next step.
"Haley is a very smart player. She is someone who has developed every aspect of her offensive game," commented Fantanarosa. "She's another great athlete who takes the game as it comes and is able to take on any role."
Courtney Larson (Columbus, Ind.) and Nikki McKee (Wyoming, Ohio) each return for their second year in the Miami program. Larson served as the backup point guard as a freshmen appearing in 26 games. It is a role that Coach Fantanarosa expects will continue, along with increasing her influence on the RedHawks' offensive attack.
"Courtney has done a great job in the off season of working on her shooting ability," said Fantanarosa. "She is a great athlete, a good leader at the point and one of our best passers. Her competitiveness makes her a threat on both the offensive and defensive ends."
McKee is a walk-on who is one of the quickest players on the team. She appeared in five games last season and provides depth at the guard position.
"Nikki is a very explosive athlete who challenges us every day in practice with her defense and how quickly she can get to the hoop with the dribble alive," said Fantanarosa.
A talented four-person freshman class joins the Red and White this season, and their ability to make an immediate impact will be a key factor in Miami's run towards a MAC Championship. The class is made up of forwards Rupright, Hannah McCue (Rocky River, Ohio) and Tamira Ford (Cleveland, Ohio), as well as guard Maddie McCallie (Durham, N.C.). Rupright comes in with impressive credentials, having been named Miss Basketball Indiana as a senior as well as First-Team All-State by the Associated Press. She averaged 21.8 points and 8.0 rebounds per game for Norwell High School last season.
"Jessica is one of the most talented freshmen we've had at Miami," said Fantanarosa. "She is a dominant force inside who is smart as a passer but also has three-point range. As practice continues, we are seeing quick, consistent improvement. It's still very early, but my goals are high for her."
McCue was a Division II First-Team All-State player in Ohio. She averaged 16.0 points and 12.5 rebounds per game as a senior for Rocky River High School. Fantanarosa believes she will compete for playing time right away.
"Hannah is a very smart player who comes to us with a strong skill set," said Fantanarosa. "She is a great passer who has every aspect of her offensive game. Hannah impresses me because she's already very comfortable and confident in our offensive and defensive systems."
Ford comes to Miami from Padua Franciscan High School in Parma, Ohio. She was a third-team selection to the All-Northeast Lakes Region as a senior and a two-time First-Team All-North Coast League honoree.
"Tamira is a very coachable, strong athlete who is eager to learn every day," commented Fantanarosa. "Because of this is she is making great strides week-to-week. Tamira is instinctual and with her work ethic, she is already one of the most relentless rebounders on this team."
At 5-foot-10, McCallie is another in a long line of tall guards who have played for Miami. She averaged 20.7 points per game at Riverside High School in Durham, N.C. She has been around high-level basketball her entire life as her mother, Joanne P. McCallie, is the women's basketball head coach at Duke and was also in charge of Michigan State.
"Maddie is a great off-the-pass shooter who is developing every aspect of her offensive game," said Fantanarosa. "Her progress is also very quick because she is very competitive and continues to raise the bar for herself each day."
As is usually the case, the RedHawks have a difficult non-conference schedule that features BCS teams as well as strong mid-major teams that will help them prepare for MAC play. The 2012-13 regular season begins on Nov. 9 when Miami travels to Eastern Kentucky. The home opener comes three days later on Nov. 12 when the RedHawks welcome Northern Kentucky, which is joining Division I this season. On Nov. 28, Miami will head to Lexington to take on No. 7/8 Kentucky, which advanced to the Elite Eight last season and is expected to be among the contenders for the National Championship.
The highlight of the non-conference season will come just before the holidays when the RedHawks travel to Cancun, Mexico for the Caribbean Classic. While there Miami will take on Creighton on Dec. 21 and Nevada on Dec. 22. It will be the first time the 'Hawks have played regular-season games outside of the United States.
"We've once again balanced our non-conference schedule with teams that play different styles as well as teams of different sizes," said Fantanarosa. "Our game against top ten Kentucky will be huge, as well as Duquesne (Jan. 5) and traveling to Cancun right before the holidays to take on Nevada and a competitive Creighton team. We believe that being challenged by all 13 of the teams will prepare us to have to be ready to play every night in a strong Mid-American Conference.
The MAC will have a different look to it during the 2012-13 season as six of the teams will feature new coaches. That will be a challenge for Miami as it will have to adjust to all the different systems these teams will employ. Coach Fantanarosa, who has been in her head coaching position twice as long as any other coach in the MAC, is looking forward to the new look and energy this will bring to the league, but in the end she knows the RedHawks need to focus on what they can control.
"The MAC will once again will be very strong top to bottom because of the talent it returns," said Fantanarosa. "I believe that our team will rise to the challenge of facing the unfamiliar systems put in to place at each of the schools with new coaches. It's an opportunity to focus right from game number one on how important each game is going to be."
The 2013 MAC Tournament will once again feature triple byes for the top two seeds and double byes for the third and fourth seeds. The fifth through 12th seeds will have first-round games on campus sites on Saturday, Mar. 9. The remainder of the tournament will take place at Quicken Loans Arena, Mar. 13-16.
With 14 games within the friendly confines of Millett Hall fans don't want to miss a minute of the action. Buy your tickets today by visiting or calling the Miami Athletics Ticket Office at 513-529-4295 or click here. For fans who are unable to attend, all home games will be streamed live on Miami All-Access, with an audio broadcast of nearly every away game also part of the subscription package.
Miami University Women's Basketball 2012-13
Season Ticket Prices:
Youth (Under 18): $46
Miami University Faculty and Staff: $46
Senior Citizen (65 and Over): $46
Courtside Seating: $80