MACON, Ga. – After nearly a month of practice, the Mercer women's basketball team will hit the court in a game that counts Tuesday. The Bears open the 2006-07 schedule with an exhibition game against Georgia College & State University. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m. at the University Center.
The Bears are coming off a 14-15 season and advanced to the Atlantic Sun Tournament semifinals, but will be missing a pair of cogs from last year's squad. Center Tanya Kessenich graduated as Mercer's all-time leader in blocked shots while her offensive game flourished down the stretch. Guard Sarah Russell will be out this season after suffering a knee injury in the A-Sun Tournament last spring; however, she garnered All-Atlantic Sun Preseason Team honors this fall after finishing ninth in the league in scoring and rebounding to earn Second Team All-Atlantic Sun honors last season.
While Mercer replaces that duo, it returns three starters from last year's team: senior point guard Sally Skeldon, junior shooting guard Erin Keller and junior center Zsaquez Flucker. Skeldon finished third in the nation with 6.9 assists per game last season and ranked 31st in the country with 2.7 steals per contest. Keller has an explosive scoring touch and finished second on the team in scoring last season. Flucker blossomed late last year, saving her best play for the A-Sun Tournament where she recorded career-highs in rebounds and points.
Georgia College finished the 2005-06 season 17-14 overall, advancing to the NCAA Division II Tournament after winning the PBC Tournament. The Lady Bobcats return four starters, three who averaged seven or more points per game. Forward Ashley Williams tops the returnees in scoring, averaging 8.0 points, while forward Cassie Miliner leads the returning quintet with 6.6 rebounds. Point guard Lindsey Smith returns after averaging 7.0 points and 3.5 assists. Tiauna Brantley (7.0 ppg/2.1 rpg) and Shanice Dawson (5.6 ppg/1.9 rpg) split time last season.
Mercer prevailed 68-67 in an exhibition game last season, as the Bears used a late second-half surge to hold on for the victory. "The players are looking forward to getting the season started and playing against somebody other than themselves" said Mercer interim head coach Sybil Blalock. "Georgia College has a strong program and we are look forward to a challenging game."