As the ongoing changes in Clarion University Athletics continues with new coaching eras beginning, the women’s basketball team now turns to the start of the Jana Ashley era.
Clarion is coming off an 11-15 season, just missing a second straight trip to the postseason.
With Ashley beginning her tenure, the Golden Eagles finished last in the PSAC West preseason coach’s poll, coming as no surprise.
“We really don’t care we were picked last,” Ashley responded, “We’re going to focus on ourselves and get better everyday. Last year’s in the past and we’re thinking forward.”
The new head coach brings a lot of experience at the Division I level, most recently at Iona, where she helped the Gales to a 26-6 season as the regular season MAAC Champions and a berth in the Women’s NIT Tournament.
All the players have been impressed with Ashley’s energy, leadership, and basketball knowledge and are excited to begin the season.
“Her offensive sets are really good and they have helped,” Clarion senior forward Hannah Heeter commented.
“She knows so much cause and effect, and I’m excited she’s giving that to us and hopefully that will give us a leg up in the PSAC.”
The Golden Eagles will also have new faces on the court this year, highlighted by Amesha Harden-Pullium from Villa Maria Academy, and La’Tosha Fortson from Perry High School.
Harden-Pullium was an all-region player and a state champion in her freshman season.
Fortson is a two-time All-Pittsburgh City League player, and was chosen to play in the annual Roundball Classic All-Star Game following her senior season at Perry.
Now in her senior season, the expectations for Heeter will continue to rise, especially with all the new pieces.
One thing in her favor is being able to fully focus on basketball, having completed her outstanding volleyball career last year.
“I feel a lot more in basketball shape because there’s a big difference in being in shape with those sports,” Heeter said. “It’ll be nice already being focused on this sport and not worrying about anything else. I expect my game to be a lot better.”
Key returning players for Clarion besides Heeter include juniors Tania Holmes, Jasmine Boyd and Jen Straw.
Holmes starts her junior season 11th in school history with 2.7 assists per game, while averaging 7.8 points per game, including a career high 16 point performance at Mercyhurst last year.
Boyd looks to improve offensively, only shooting 34 percent from the field, and averaging 6.6 points per game last year.
Straw will share time with Heeter in the post, averaging 2.7 points and three rebounds per game while making six starts last season.
With new faces and a new coaching staff comes a trial and error period putting together the right combinations on the court.
So far, a starting five has not been determined, and may not be fully determined for a while.
“If players show consistency in practice, they will be in that five,” Ashley said. “Competition in practice will show us who those five will be on game day.”
Ashley officially begins a new era in Clarion Women’s basketball on Friday, Nov. 14 when Clarion takes on Charleston (W. VA.) as part of the MEC/PSAC Challenge in Institute, West Virginia.