(From left) Ashlee Anderson, Head Coach Suzie McConnell-Serio and Brianna Kiesel answer questions during media day. Photo courtesy of Zachary Weiss

Pitt Panthers women's basketball hopes for a turnaround

The Pittsburgh Panthers women’s basketball team has turned the page following a disappointing 9-21 record as it prepares for the upcoming season which starts with the first official practice on Monday.

Gone is Agnus Berenato and now hired in her place is Suzie McConnell-Serio who has hired a staff while working within the limited time period allotted by the NCAA.

McConnell-Serio had five consecutive 20-win seasons at Duquesne and has told the Panthers not to look back, but to move forward.

“We try not to talk about the record,” McConnell-Serio said. “We are looking for a fresh start and hope to surprise some people in the ACC and non-conference. We know that other people will be talking about where we started. It is what it is. We are just excited about the fresh start and building from the players we have. We have all the pieces to the puzzle.”

A big piece of this puzzle will be junior Brianna Kiesel and senior Ashlee Anderson, both of whom have bought into McConnell-Serio.

“It is very exciting,” Kiesel said. “There is a lot to be learned from her including how to be a leader on and off the court. Having coach McConnell here has brought new optimism to the team and with me especially. She is trying to get me to become more vocal and I think it is paying off.”

Anderson as a senior, understands that she has to take on an important leadership role with the team.

“I have been here a long time,” Anderson said. “I’m excited to have the opportunity to play another year and to hopefully prove that the team is good and have a better season than what we have had previously.”

Pitt returns a roster that lost one player in Abby Dowd to graduation and another in Krista Pettepier who transferred to Pepperdine. The team did recruit two players in Frederique Potvin and Chelsea Welch.

“Frederique Potvin, is a shooter but can do a little more than that,” McConnell-Serio said. “When she first came in, that was her strength. She is now starting to get more and more comfortable with putting the ball on the floor and showing some athleticism to create her own shot. Chelsea Welch has come in as a combo. It is probably intimidating for her to go up against Brianna Kiesel everyday so she sometimes goes off to the 2-guard spot. It will take a year for her to learn the position and learn from someone who is comfortable in that spot. We need someone to be back to back up Brianna Kiesel. Chelsea will be able to do that along with scoring from the perimeter.”

On the most important thing to establish her first year: “Getting our team to believe that when they step out on that floor that we have the confidence to win and that we are prepared. That comes every day in practice as well.”

Also playing in her first season after being red-shirted is Marvadene “Bubbles” Anderson who at 6-foot-11 could make a big impact.

“Bubbles has been great,” McConnell-Serio said. “I’m very impressed with her ability around the basket, she has great touch, great footwork and can finish. All of our post players [Asia Logan, Cora McManus and Chyna Golden] each bring something different, so it’s a challenge playing together. We talk about that chemistry and understanding the personnel you are on the floor with.”

The Panthers hope to be fully healthy soon as two important pieces to last year’s team Asian Logan and Brittany Gordon recover from shoulder injuries. Both had off-season surgery and were just cleared for contact. That meant that this summer there was an added focus on conditioning, rehab and shooting.

Looking at the schedule it is easy for many to key in on the City Game against Duquesne University which will be played December 29, 2013 at the Petersen Events Center, however despite the emotion behind it, McConnell-Serio insists that it is another game on the schedule and that ‘we will prepare for Duquesne the way we would any opponent’.

For more information on the complete Panthers schedule, click here.

McConnell-Serio is accustomed to having smaller players, while playing more of an up-tempo offense. This will have to change at Pitt, as the team’s makeup differs that of her previous job a few miles away.

“I want to put the players in a position of confidence and believing in themselves,” McConnell-Serio said. “You try to make them more successful than they ever thought they would be.”

The Panthers schedule starts at home Nov. 3 against California (Pa.) with a tip-off scheduled for 2 p.m.

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