Former high school teammates ready to help Mansfield women
When practices first began and Mansfield University freshman Katie Fitzpatrick took the court, there was a familiar face in every huddle.
One of her former teammates at Upper Darby High School, Shaleta Heyward, is a redshirt junior transfer to the Mountaineers, giving both a big of familiarity as they start a new chapter in their basketball careers.
"It's good to know we have each other," Fitzpatrick said. "It's always good to have someone to make you feel comfortable."
And, while the started out just knowing each other, it quickly became apparent it wouldn't take long with this year's Mansfield team for everyone to become fast friends.
"Everything we do, we do as a team," Heyward said.
"We really all do get along well together," Fitzpatrick said.
One of the things that might be making this year's team come together so quickly is that everyone is in a bit of the same situation.
With a new coach in Alison Tagliaferri, and a number of players lost to graduation, everyone is starting the year on a pretty even playing field.
"Everyone has an opportunity this year," Fitzpatrick said. "It's just a matter of who works for it the most."
"It's a clean slate for everyone," Heyward said.
Both players know that there will be opportunities to earn playing time this season, but that they need to keep working to get that time.
"We have to prove ourselves to her (Tagliaferri)," Fitzpatrick said.
Both know what Tagliaferri did when she played at Mansfield and they are excited to see how she does as the Mansfield coach.
"With the player she was, and how hard she works, this program will be successful," Fitzpatrick said.
And, the players believe that while there are some new faces this year, the Mountaineers have a chance to be successful.
"I'm extremely excited, I think we have a good year ahead of us," Fitzpatrick said.
The first time they took the court for the Mountaineers in their exhibition against Binghamton, the two newcomers both learned what they need to expect this year.
"It was a good first game," Fitzpatrick said. "We saw what it's like. We saw things we need to fix. I thought we played with them for a while, but there are things we need to fix."
Neither player believes there is a ton of pressure on them in their first year.
"I don't feel any pressure at all, I just want to play my game and do what I can to help the team," Heyward said.
They know that they have some good upperclassmen who will guide them this year.
"The upperclassmen do a good job, and we really can look up to them," Fitzpatrick said. "We just want to do what needs to be done."
And, the players both believe this team has the potential to exceed the expectations of league coaches who didn't pick Mansfield high in the preseason.
"I think we can be successful this year," Fitzpatrick said. "I think we have so much talent on this team. We just have to make it work, make it fit together, but I think we can be successful."