Second-year Judson University women's basketball coach Kristi Cirone won't have to worry about depth this season.
Cirone is excited about the talent she has up and down her roster as Judson looks to improve on last year's 9-22 overall mark (4 conference wins).
"We can go pretty deep with this team," she said. "I can see them all getting some minutes."
The list of returning players includes senior Hailey Cnota (5-11, G-F, Jacobs), junior Emily Ragsdale (6-1, F, Ottawa, Ill.), sophomore Diamond Williams (5-11, F, Dundee-Crown) and Rebekah Tabb (6-0, F, Lebanon, Mo.). Also back are guards Siobhan Cerney (5-7, Soph., Schaumburg) and Lenna Galanis (5-8, Jr., Waco, Texas).
Cnota and Ragsdale are returning after missing last year with ACL injuries.
Cnota, Williams and Tabb are projected to start, along with freshman newcomers Kelli Ludwig (5-6, G, Harlem) and Ashley Heine (5-7, G, Barrington). Point guard Diamond Courts (5-5, Fresh., Proviso East) also is new to the team.
"We have a lot of girls who can play different roles whether they are starting or coming off the bench," said Cirone. "This is a fun group to coach and they work hard every day. We're a team. They care about the team and are very selfless. They want to do special things. We have a lot of talent. Our only weakness is the youth we have. Getting that experience is important and getting accustomed to the intensity of this level. They have great attitudes and are working hard in the gym and are building chemistry for the year."
Cirone isn't about to use the youth aspect as an excuse.
"We have seven freshmen and some of our returners are still young," she said. "We're starting one senior, two sophomores and two freshmen. It shows our youth, but it's not an excuse. We have to come together quickly and learn from our mistakes as quickly as we can."
Cirone knows Cnota and Ragsdale will need time to get re-acclimated to the rigors of competitive games.
"They both had ACLs and have to get used to getting back into the swing of things," she said. "They've been out of game competition so it might take a little time. Both of them are working hard."
Cirone already is seeing progress on the practice floor.
"They aren't making as many youthful mistakes as they have been," she said. "They want it. They are playing hard and they want to do it for each other. It's great. That attitude will help us get to where we want to go quicker."
The coach said the potential to improve on last year's 9-win campaign definitely is there.
"I believe we will do better," said Cirone. "I don't want to think only in terms of wins and losses. I think we will compete much better on a more consistent basis. We want them to focus on one game at a time and do the little things that this program is all about. They definitely have the ability to compete better than they did last year and do some special things this season. If they compete like they are capable of, everything else will take care of itself."
Other players that could contribute include junior Jessica Santiago (5-8, G, Belvidere), freshman Amy Falson (5-6, F, Glenbard North), freshman Melanie Claudio (6-1, F, Gordon Tech) and freshman Katherine Massey (5-11, F, Gibson City, Ill.). Freshman Janay Wright (5-10, G-F, DeKalb) is listed as a redshirt this season.
Judson opened the 2013-2014 season with a 74-50 loss at St. Francis. Williams had 13 points and 12 rebounds. Courts had 12 points and 4 assists, while Tabb had 10 points. The Eagles came back earlier this week and notched an 88-67 win at home against Silver Lake. Ludwig had 19 points, Williams added 18 points, while Tabb (13 points) and Ragsdale (12 points) also were in double figures. The Eagles fell to Ashford 52-46 on Saturday.
Judson returns home Wednesday against Moody Bible.