Butler Prepares For New Test In Atlantic 10

Head coach Beth Couture

With the start of the season just around the corner, the Butler women's basketball team is busy preparing for its inaugural season in the Atlantic 10—a campaign that will feature plenty of new faces for the Bulldogs, in addition to the unfamiliarity of new league opponents.

During the recent 2012-13 Atlantic 10 Conference Women's Basketball Media Day, Butler head coach Beth Couture talked about her expectations for the coming year.

"Everything is going to be new for us," Couture said. "From top to bottom, the league is going to be much more competitive. I'm so excited to be in a league like the A-10 where women's basketball has such rich tradition."

The Bulldogs will return just four players from last year's squad that finished fifth in the Horizon League (13-17, 9-9). The active returners for Butler include Hannah Douglas, Haley Howard, Mandy McDivitt and Amanda Raker.

"We're pretty inexperienced as far as the Butler system. But we do have seven players coming back that have played Division I basketball," Couture said.

Butler will welcome three transfers to the lineup this year. Junior Daress McClung (Cincinnati) and sophomores Taylor Schippers (Oklahoma State) and Liz Stratman (Xavier) are expected to play key roles in the Bulldogs' rotation.

Schippers, who started 17 games in her one season at Oklahoma State, will begin the season as the Bulldogs' starting point guard.

"Schippers just came out of the Big 12 and she understands the physical play of Division I basketball," Couture said. "She is such a good leader on the floor, so we feel really good about that."

McClung and Stratman will help fill the void left in the front court by the loss Sarah Hamm, Butler's leading scorer and rebounder last season.

"We're going to have to do that by committee," Couture said of replacing Hamm, who is out for the year with a torn ACL. "Stratman will be eligible after exams, which will help us when we get in A-10 play. But we're looking at McClung and Raker to really be the lead there early with their experience."

Aside from on the hardwood, Butler will need to adjust to the differences of the A-10 off the court, as well.

"We are trying to work with our travel coach to figure out what hotels to stay in," Couture said. "Just this morning, we were talking about where to park the bus."

Even in the midst of competing in a new conference with a new cast of players, Couture is certain what message she wants to send to the rest of the league.

"When we leave the floor after a game," Couture said, "we want the people that we've competed against to say, 'Wow they were a tough team, and they played hard and they played together.' And if we can accomplish that, we'll have a chance to have some success."

-- by Lance Rinker '13