MUNCIE, Ind. - The Ball State women's basketball team has begun practicing for the 2013-04 season under the direction of second-year head coach Brady Sallee. The Cardinals return all five starters from last season's Women's National Invitation Tournament Final 16 team.
"We're really excited to get going with this group,” said head coach Brady Sallee. “They had a great summer and even better preseason. I know they are chomping at the bit to get on the practice floor and I look forward to seeing what they look like."
The NCAA moved up the start date for basketball practice this year. Teams now have 40 days to hold 30 practices before their first game.
The Cardinals will be led by sophomore forward Nathalie Fontaine, along with senior guard Brandy Woody and forward Katie Murphy. Junior guards Brittany Carter and Shelbie Justice also return from last year’s starting five.
Fontaine, the reigning All-Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year, averaged 13.2 points per game and 6.6 rebounds. Fontaine was named to the All-MAC Freshmen squad while also earning Second Team All-MAC honors. As a true freshman, Fontaine ended the season just nine points shy of what Ball State's all-time leading scorer Tamara Bowie had when she was a true freshman. Fontaine ended the season with 423 points while Bowie tallied 432 points her freshman year.
Woody, a Third Team All-MAC honoree, averaged 10.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game last season. For her career, she has scored 718 points with 422 rebounds and 165 steals. She scored a career-best 29 points along with a career-high performance in steals (7) in the Cardinals' win at Buffalo last season. Woody led all scorers with 19 points in a 54-51 win at Big Ten foe Minnesota in the first round of the WNIT.
Rounding out the starting five from last season are, Carter, Justice and Murphy. The three players combined for 807 points of the Cardinals scoring in 2012-13. Carter was the third-leading scorer on the team (9.8 ppg) and second in steals (67). Justice ranked fourth on the team in scoring (7.9 ppg) and managed a career best 20 points at Western Michigan. Murphy played in 32 games, managing four double-doubles, including a career high rebound performance (15) against Eastern Michigan (2/20).
Also returning for Ball State are sophomores Taylor Miller and Alex Southworth, both of whom missed playing time during the season due to injuries. She played in 22 games as a freshman. The Cardinals also welcome six newcomers: Renee Bennett, Calyn Hosea, Shelby Merder, Jill Morrison, Haley Richardson and Candyce Ussery.
The Ball State women's basketball team finished the 2012-13 season with a 17-16 overall record and a 12-4 MAC mark, earning them the No. 2 seed in the MAC Tournament for the first time since 2009. The Cardinals knocked off Big Ten foe Minnesota and defeated Northern Iowa in the WNIT to advance to the Final 16.
The Cardinals will host an exhibition game Oct. 30 against Oakland City at 7 p.m. Ball State will then open the regular season at reigning Big Ten champion Purdue, Nov. 10 in West Lafayette, Ind.