Lemont Furnace, PA - Fourth-year Penn State Fayette women's basketball coach Scott Hillen knows that his young team will struggle at times with older and more experienced teams this season, but he isn't looking to make excuses.
Seven of the 12 players on the team are freshmen, and not only is Hillen ready to go, but so is his team.
"I think we are eager to get started and are mentally ready," Hillen said. "I think the young nerves showed in our first scrimmage but then in the second, we proved to ourselves that we can have success if we play together and depend on each other to do our job."
Senior Taylor Harbaugh (Pittsburgh, PA/Our Lady of Sacred Heart HS) is the lone returning starter from last year's team that went 3-21.
"She is a vocal leader who is a scoring threat form the inside and outside," Hillen said of Harbaugh, who missed almost the entire second semester last year due to concussion symptoms. "She is eager for the season to start."
Junior Lindsey Huhn (California, PA/California HS) was a part-time starter two years ago but missed all of last season with an injury.
"She is back, healthy and gives us an inside presence," Hillen said. "Lindsey also provides leadership and rebounding."
Junior Siteri Tale (Uniontown/Laurel Highlands HS) will join the team after the volleyball season ends this weekend at the USCAA national championships.
"Siteri is a gifted athlete and is back after missing a season," Hillen said. "She does not know her full potential as a basketball player yet and will be a force on the inside for us defensively and offensively."
Hillen said that he sees quite a few different players starting throughout the season.
"I really believe we have seven or eight girls that could start for us this season," he said.
While mistakes will be made, Hillen is thrilled with what his freshmen class brings to the team.
"I think we really had a very good recruiting class," he said. "I expect a lot out of this group."
The group consists of Bailey Vig (California, PA/California HS), Carissa Cyphert (Scottsdale, PA/Southmoreland HS), Dae-lin Burnsworth (Monarch, PA/Connellsville HS), Jtaya Pirl Connellsville, PA/Connellsville HS), Kaitlyn Riley (Charleroi, PA/Charleroi HS), Shelbie Brown (Camden, OH/Preble Shawnee HS), and Taylor Costa (Donora, PA/Ringgold HS).
"Bailey is a very smart player who can score and handle the ball and will play the point and shooting guard," Hillen said when asked about Vig. "Her positive attitude will be great for us."
Hillen spoke next about Cyphert.
"Carissa is a sharp-shooter and great defender who will join us after volleyball," he said. "She will stretch the floor and defend like we want."
Burnsworth was the next freshman that Hillen spoke about.
"Dae-lin will be our point guard who can score, set up her teammates and is a girl who has a lot to prove to doubters and has made a believer out of me already," he said. "I have confidence in her to be a leader on the court."
Hillen spoke about Pirl.
"Jtaya is a lockdown defender who is high-energy and a great teammate," he said. "Her hard work has made her a dual-threat and will play a significant role for us."
Riley was next.
"Kaitlyn is a great defender and scorer who does a little bit of everything," Hillen said. "She has a great work ethic and will continue to grow as a player."
Brown is the lone 2018 recruit from outside of the immediate area.
"Shelbie is a tough, hard-working player that brings us rebounding and great defense," he said. "She is working hard and gaining confidence in her offensive game and will be a force on the inside."
Last but not least, Hillen spoke about Costa.
"Taylor is an all-around player who can score, defend and rebound," Hillen said. "Her hard work is going to make her a big part of what we do."
"They are working hard and improving," he said. "The whole team is."
The team opens up against on Friday, November 9 Campbellsville University Harrodsburg at home in the USCAA Tipoff Classic.
The game starts at 8 p.m.
For more information on the women's basketball team, go to https://www.psfathletics.com/sports/wbkb/index.