The 2004-2005 edition of the Pitt Johnstown Lady Cat Basketball Team is hoping to mirror its performance of last season. Many were surprised when the Lady Cats rolled to a 22-6 record and were awarded their 15th NCAA tournament bid. With just one senior returning, this young team is hoping it will continue to astonish people with its “youthful enthusiasm.” Leading the returnees is the Lady Cats, second leading scorer (14.7 ppg) and a senior co-captain, Melissa Patterson (Alexandria, Pa./Juniata Valley H.S.). Patterson, a 2004-05 Women’s Basketball Bulletin Pre-Season Honorable All-American, played a major role in the Lady Cat success story and will be called upon to perform well on both ends of the court. Her statistics rarely showed her quality of play on the floor. She is a highly disciplined player who strives for perfection. Pitt Johnstown will have to replace last year’s Kodak Honorable Mention All-American Crystal Barr (Gibsonia, Pa./Deer Lakes H.S.). Barr, who led the Lady Cats in scoring at 18.6 ppg, was also the program’s 26th 1,000 point scorer. Also lost to graduation is starting point guard Kristin Creswell (Cassville, Pa./Southern Huntingdon H.S.). Creswell, a true floor leader, earned Verizon Academic All-American All-District honors last season. Her leadership qualities played a major role in the Lady Cats’ success. She averaged 13.8 ppg, and ranked 12th in the country in assists at 6.4 apg. Patterson will be looking for help in guiding this youthful squad. She’ll turn to junior co-captain Jaclyn Schirf (Loretto, Pa./Bishop Carroll H.S.) to help fill the void left by graduation. Schirf’s defensive tenacity is always welcome. Schirf played in all 28 games last season, giving her plenty of experience. The nucleus of this team consists of seven sophomores, including Allison Krischer (Johnstown, Pa./Richland H.S.), a highly recruited athlete out of high school. Her physical strength and athleticism make her a complete player. She worked hard on her jump shot and is ready to contribute. She will see plenty of playing time this season. Sophomore Jackie Anthony (Rochester, Pa./Rochester H.S.) will serve as a spark plug to help Schirf lead the team defensively. Anthony’s speed and quickness make it difficult to catch her in the open court. Also pushing for more playing time is sophomore guard Connie Derzack (Wexford, Pa./Pine-Richland). Derzack has worked hard to adjust to the college game. Her work will hopefully add to the scoring deficit left by Creswell and Barr. Her athleticism and defensive ability could also be an asset. Redshirt sophomore Chelsea McKinney (St. Petersburg, Pa./Clarion-Valley H.S) has shown improvement and will be vying for playing time at the guard slot. Sophomore Jami Oaks (South Fork, Pa./Forest Hills H.S.) is hoping to reap the benefits of rigorous summer workouts to add depth and scoring to the Lady Cat offense. Although the team strength lies within it’s guard play, the inside players need to step up their level of play if the team is going to achieve success. Junior center Samantha Conner (Everett, Pa./Everett H.S.) is in the best physical condition of her career. Her off-season commitment to the program has her being a force with finesse in the paint. At one point during last season, Conner led the nation in free throw shooting. She finished the season ranked third (88.1%) nationally. Red shirt sophomore Shannon Reigh (Williamsburg, Pa./Williamsburg H.S.) has the ability to hit the foul line jumper. She is expected to provide the rebounding power. Reigh has improved her conditioning and will also be relied on to provide more offense. Sophomore Jessica Zapf (Pittsburgh, Pa./North Hills H.S.) had a stellar freshman season coming off a mid-season ankle injury. Her improvement was so impressive that she landed a starting position in last season’s NCAA National Tournament game. Zapf will be joined in the post by red shirt freshman Sarah Priest (Johnstown, Pa./Ferndale Area H.S.). After sitting out last season as a medical red shirt, Priest is working to prepare herself for the fast paced Lady Cat game. She could provide the rebounding power that is needed to start the Lady Cat fast break. The Lady Cats also welcome three freshmen to this youthful roster. Greater Johnstown High School’s Crystal Andrews' speed in the open court has caught Coach Jodi Gault’s attention. She is expected to see the court as soon as she is capable of grasping the Lady Cat system. Andrews was awarded for her scholastic achievements by being named a Third Team Pennsylvania All-State Selection in Class AAA. Her classmate, fellow Greater Johnstown Trojan standout Jill Maurer, whose versatility will allow her to see time in the post or small forward position, has court awareness tailor-made for the Lady Cat up-tempo style of play. Westmont Hilltop High School’s Krista Britcher (Johnstown, Pa.) will receive a medical red shirt. The improvements she has made in her strength and conditioning prove the Lady Cat program is a perfect fit for Britcher. This season of learning will be invaluable to her career. Year in and year out, one thing remains constant with the Lady Cats. They play one of the toughest schedules in the East Region. “If we can’t play with the best during the regular season, then we don’t deserve a bid in March,” said Coach Gault, who is entering her 23rd season. The toughest challenge facing Coach Gault is the recruitment of student athletes. “It is extremely difficult to find quality athletes who fit the Lady Cat mold. With the high academic demands placed on us by the University, the classroom has to be the number one priority. Our athletes must represent this University with utmost respect. They must fit the demographics of the campus and we pay close attention to the character of our recruits," Coach Gault commented.” The 2004-05 season will be quite challenging for Pitt Johnstown. Coach Gault was pleased with pre-season conditioning and feels her squad will play hard and be exciting to watch. The East Region is full of tough teams, like California University (PA), the defending 2004 NCAA Division II National Champions. The Lady Cats open on the road at Clarion University on November 16.