The 2010-2011 season was one characterized by success for the women's basketball team, resulting in 26 wins, a SUNYAC title and a NCAA tournament victory over Pennsylvania's DeSales University.
Yet if the Knights plan on repeating that success this season, their biggest obstacle may end up being themselves, not their opponents.
"We've talked about expectations for the season and the one thing I don't want them to do is be last year's team. That would be unfair to them," said head coach Scott Hemer.
Given the high level of talent on the current roster, including a sensational recruiting class, time may be the only factor not working in the Knights' favor. Like any young team, Geneseo still needs time to learn, mature and develop chemistry together.
"I honestly believe that this team, if they learn quickly and gel quickly could be better than last year's team [by February]," Hemer said.
This year's team definitely has the raw talent to compete at a similar, if not higher level than a year ago. Don't expect them to display the type of consistent dominance that won them 26 games last year though, at least not early on in the season.
The loss of key veterans and leaders Alyssa Polosky, Brittany Finkle, Lesley Niebel, Khadija Campbell and Melissa Loughlin will also go a long way in heightening the learning curve for the 2011-2012 squad.
"We're not going to try and fill the roles [of the seniors] from last year because each one of [them] were defined by their strengths and weaknesses," said Hemer. "To try to pigeonhole [current players] … isn't what is best for us and our personnel this year."
Geneseo's basketball philosophy has always been about balance, consistency and the team – never the individual. So all returning players, as well as incoming freshmen will be called upon to carry the load wherever they are needed.
"I wouldn't anticipate having too many clearly defined spots within the rotation or starting lineup," said Hemer. "That's a good problem to have because it will force them to show up to work every day and they'll continue to push each other to achieve beyond what they probably thought they could."
The Knights got their first taste of competition on Nov. 5 in an exhibition game against Queens University (Ontario). Geneseo showed glimpses of promise as well as inconsistency, falling 55-66.
"This weekend was definitely a learning experience and as much as it is a loss in the record books, it's a victory in a lot of other ways and we're going to take it and run with it," said junior captain Melissa Graham, who led the team with 13 points and six rebounds.
Against Queens, the Knights looked as one might have expected: like a young team playing in its first game of the season, an exhibition nonetheless. Still, there were some encouraging signs for Geneseo, including their control of the boards, 41-36.
"It's a work in progress," said Hemer. "Anytime you have half a roster that's new it's certainly not going to happen in a short period of time."
The Knights begin their season against Wesleyan University (Connecticut) and the SUNY College at Old Westbury on Nov. 19 and 20, respectively.
"We talk a lot about the season being a marathon and not a sprint," said Hemer. "We're not trying to accomplish everything here within the next couple weeks. Our eyes are on February to put ourselves in a position where we're the team that nobody wants to play."