Canadian influence ignites women’s basketball

There is a Canadian invasion taking over the Vermont women’s basketball team — and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The defending America East champions are preparing to tip off their season and they will return their core from last season in seniors May Kotsopoulos and Courtnay Pilypaitis, who both call Canada home.

The accolades of these North Country playmakers speak for themselves; 2007-2008 America East Player of the Year — Pilypaitis, 2007-2008 America East Defensive Player of the Year – Kotsopoulos, and to top it off 2008-2009 America East champions.

Pretty notable, eh?

If that wasn’t enough Canadian talent for one American basketball team, take a look at this year’s class of freshmen.

The first thing that should be taken into account is the awesome talent that has been brought in with this class – then it should be noted that four of the six rooks are from the motherland of Pilypaitis and Kotsopoulos.

The foreign migration can be attributed to the recruiting strengths of head coach Sharon Dawley and assistant coach Jenn MacAulay, who is a Canadian native.

They’ve been able to tap in to the plethora of Canadian talent that flies under the radar and lure players to the neighboring state of Vermont.

The location of Vermont’s campus is surely a factor for the Canadian players who can travel home by car rather than having to purchase an expensive international flight back.
What to watch for

Each of the Canadian players brings their own unique skill set, but it all starts at the top with the veterans who know how to get it done. Kotsopoulos and Pilypaitis are co-captains who have the game to back up their titles.

Both are sharpshooters from outside, with each hitting more than 40 3-pointers last seasonand shooting over 35 percent  from the field.

Kotsopoulos is known for her speed and lockdown defense, while Pilypaitis has uncanny court vision and playmaking ability.

Watch for both of them to continue to improve as seniors and help guide their younger countrymen.

The freshman Canadian class brings in outstanding athleticism, starting with Kendra Seto, who can play any position from shooting guard to power forward. Seto’s combination of speed and strength will fit well into Dawley’s offense.

Kristine Lalonde brings depth to the point guard position and mirrors Kotsopoulos in raw speed. Though she’s been out with an illness in the preseason, watch for her to return to form quickly.

Lauren Wheeler, who hails from Ancaster, Ontario, fits the Pilypaitis mold of having good height, ball handling and court awareness, and will probably see the floor as the season progresses.

Dawley and MacAulay addressed the losses of last years post players Kelli Poles and Andrea Cihal (also Canadian) with the recruitment of Lauren Bushman.

Bushman is a 6’1″ center who brings great strength and solid athleticism down low.

Watch for her to make an immediate impact on the boards as she compliments current starter Alyssa Sheftic in the post.

With the steady guidance of Pilypaitis and Kotsopoulos and the infusion of  young athletic talent, don’t be surprised to see UVM finish as America Champions yet again.