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Despite Suffering Some Key Graduation Losses, PU Women’s Hoops Primed for an Ivy Four-peat

FOUR-SIGHT: Princeton University women’s basketball star Niveen Rasheed heads up the court in action last season. Senior forward Rasheed, the Ivy League Player of the Year in 2011-12, will be looking to end her stellar career by leading Princeton to a fourth straight league title. The Tigers tip off the upcoming season when they play at St. Joseph’s on November 11. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Lauren Edwards and Devona Allgood were two of the key building blocks for a Princeton University women’s basketball program that has dominated the Ivy League over the last three winters.

The 6’3 Allgood controlled the paint, scoring 1,177 points and grabbing 802 rebounds in her career while the rangy 6’0 Edwards tallied 1,319 points and 152 three-pointers as the Tigers won three straight league titles, going 41-1 in Ivy play over that span.

The exit of the two stars to graduation this past June would seem to signal a rebuilding season for the Tigers, whose 2011-12 campaign ended with a tough 67-64 loss to Kansas State in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.

But with the return of senior forward Niveen Rasheed, last season’s Ivy League Player of the Year who has 1,134 career points, and classmate Lauren Polansky, the two-time Ivy Defensive Player of the Year, Princeton is in good shape to make a run for a fourth straight league crown.

Coming off a season that saw the Tigers go 24-5 overall and 14-0 Ivy, becoming the first league team to be ranked in the Top 25 nationally at No. 24, Princeton was recently picked first in the 2012-13 Ivy Preseason Media Poll.

While Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart is proud to have transformed her program into a force, she isn’t focusing on preseason accolades as she looks ahead to opening the 2012-13 season with a game at St. Joseph’s on November 11.

“As is always the case, it doesn’t matter where you start in the poll, it matters where you end up,” said Banghart, who is bringing a 95-50 overall record into her sixth year at the helm, having gone 74-13 the last three seasons.

“That said, I’m really proud of this Tiger program as we’ve worked tirelessly in the offseason and as a unit to continually earn the target on our back. This group has both pride and humility. We appreciate the respect, but we are driven by how far we still have to go to reach our lofty goals. It’s one day at a time for this team.”

Senior co-captain Rasheed, a 6’0 native of Danville, Calif., has proven to be one of the most driven players in Ivy history, starting from the moment she took the court for Princeton in 2009. Even though she was coming off a sophomore season  that ended early due to an ACL injury, Rasheed was at full speed from the opening tip last winter, averaging 16.9 points and 8.8 rebounds a game.

Her classmate and co-captain Polansky has proven to be one of the most valuable point guards in recent Ivy history. The 5’8 Polansky, a resident of Mill Valley, Calif., has piled up 227 assists, 299 rebounds, and 161 steals in her Tiger career.

The Tigers also welcome back 6‘0 senior starter Kate Miller (5.9 points, 3.2 rebounds a game in 2011-12) and key reserves, 5’11 junior Nicole Hung (7.0 points, 3.0 rebounds) and 6‘3 senior Megan Bowen (6.0 points, 3.1 rebounds).

The freshman class should give the Tigers depth and height with the quintet of Taylor Williams (6’3), Alex Wheatley (6’2), Annie Tarakchian (6’0), Michelle Miller (5’10), and Amanda Bernsten (5’8).

Banghart won’t have to wait long to see if the team has what it takes to compete for its lofty goals as it faces NCAA tournament teams Marist, Rutgers, and UCLA in November action.


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