It’s a new dawn for the Memorial Sea-Hawks women’s basketball team. Doug Partridge has been replaced at the helm by veteran coach Mark English, who has set about molding the new-look Sea-Hawks (who have had quite a player turnover from last season) into a unit that he hopes will be perennial playoff contenders in the competitive Atlantic University Sport (AUS) conference.

The main absence felt on the court this year will be at guard, as soon-to-be graduate Kelia Pond’s five sparkling years in red and white have come to a close. Pond was a veteran leader of the Lady Hawks, and possessed perhaps the most well-rounded skill set on the team, capable of rebounding, distributing, and scoring at her leisure. Unfortunately, Pond is not the only star guard missing from last year’s version of the Sea-Hawks. Megan Robinson, who joined Pond last year in MUN’s prestigious Athletic Honor Society, and drew national attention after making a 60 foot buzzer beating three to force overtime at the Field House against the Dalhousie Tigers, has graduated. Finally, the departure of former conference all-star and oft double-double recorder Tianna Brown will also be a major blow to English’s side. With the departure of both Brown and multiple-time all-star Sandra Amoah, English will look to a new crop of hopefuls to shoulder the load on the glass and take command of the low post.

English, contending with a shortened off-season having only being at his post since June, has since wasted little time in scooping up high caliber talent to rebuild his side, including one of this province’s own bright young stars. Kelsey Moore, a two time St. John’s AAAA champion, former Booth Brave, and Canada Games alumna, was recruited to the program by English earlier this summer. Given Moore’s basketball pedigree, and the fact that she is a quick and intelligent guard of similar size and stature, English and his staff are hopeful that she can eventually grow into the holes left by Pond and Robinson at the heart of the Sea-Hawk offense. True to his word upon being hired, English indeed left “no stone unturned,” also adding standout Ontarian guards Andreanne Ennis (Ottawa) and Hallie Nickerson (Grimsby) to the roster as well. There’s still plenty of off-season to go until the season begins in November, but it’s likely English will now turn his attention to the forward positions, having ensured a healthy competition at guard.

Examining the major threats into the Sea-Hawks within the conference, last year’s champions the St. Mary’s Huskies (16-4) remain one of the nation’s strongest programs, while English’s former team, the runner-up UPEI Panthers (13-7) and now led by New Brunswick native Greg Gould, will also be ones to watch for. All in all, the conference has a great degree of parity, and few sides stand head and shoulders above the rest. If Memorial seeks a playoff berth in the first season of the post-Partridge era, they will have to earn it.

What qualifies a success in this uncertain period of Memorial women’s basketball is anyone’s guess. If you ask English, the goal is to prepare the team for the future, and to build a foundation of teamwork and understanding on which to win championships. If you ask the players, they’re pushing not only for team accolades and success, but to do their best individually to propel the group to greater heights. As for the fans, they’ll hope for the best, but will simply have to wait and see how Memorial’s highest flying ladies fare when push comes to shove.

The Memorial women’s Sea-Hawks begin their season November 7th with a two game set at home against last season’s champions, the St. Mary’s Huskies.