Depth will be a key factor for the women’s basketball team this season. Coach Amy Backus said she hopes to establish a rotation featuring all 12 players on the roster.

The Bulldogs hope to feature an up-tempo game with players expending all their energy on the court in spurts — before giving way to fresher players off the bench.

“We definitely have the personnel to keep up the pace,” Backus said. “We have a lot of similar players, and we don’t have a real superstar, which is great because on any given night anyone can get the job done. We can go big and we can go small, but we never have to go slow.”

Last season, the Elis posted a 14-13 (7-7 Ivy) record and finished tied for fourth in the league. In the preseason writers’ poll, the team is again picked to finish in the middle of the pack: fifth.

But at least at the outset of the season, the team has higher hopes. Maria Smear ’03, the team’s captain, said the team’s ability to use its whole bench will help wear out teams that only use six or seven players. Smear has no fear the short stints on the court will prevent the opposition from establishing any rhythm.

“We need to go into the season with the outlook that the deep rotation is a strength and not a weakness,” said Smear, the team’s only senior. “It’s a mental thing; if you’re used to playing as hard as you can for five or six minutes, you get used to it.”

According to Backus, 11 freshmen and sophomores got regular minutes last year. The extra year of experience has been evident in pre-season practices, and the cohesion on offense and defense has looked solid.

On offense, the Bulldogs will look to outgun their opponents from long distance. Last season, the Bulldogs shot 35 percent as a team from behind the arc.

“It’s going to be difficult to defend the number of three-point shooters we have,” Backus said. “We have the ability to get up and down the floor and really keep the pressure on on offense and defense.”

The hope is that when the reserves come in, there is no drop-off in production. In the backcourt, Smear, the team’s leading scorer her freshman and sophomore years, returns from an injury-plagued junior year. She hopes to return to the form that landed her on the All-Ivy team her sophomore season.

Also returning to the backcourt is Brynn Gingras ’04, who is entering her third season as the team’s starting point guard.

“She’s showing a lot of maturity,” Backus said. “She’s making great decisions in practice. She’s distributing the ball well and finding good opportunities for her own scoring, as well.”

Tory Mauseth ’05 and Morgan Richards ’05 also will see extended minutes in the rotation, Backus said.

Up front, the Bulldogs will look to fill the void of Meg Simpson ’02, who led the team with 248 rebounds last season, over 100 more than anyone else on the team. Crashing the boards has been a theme of Eli practice thus far.

“Losing Meg [Simpson] is like losing a Dennis Rodman,” Backus said. “Everyone has the responsibility of picking up two or three extra boards. It’s not an area they can slack on any more, and that’s a tough thing to break the habit of.”

Some of the burden will fall on the shoulders of Christina Phillips ’04, who started last season at power forward. Phillips was third in the Ivy League last season in three-point percentage (.394) but will have to be more of a force on the inside this season.

Aubrey Smith ’04 was Simpson’s backup last season and should see more time this year.

Lindsay Page ’05, a member of last season’s Ivy League All-Rookie team, will be expected at the top of the scoring ranks, and Bonnie Smith ’04 should see playing time in the 3 slot, Backus said.

The Bulldogs were only two games out of second place in the league last season, and they are convinced that improving the team’s defense will make the difference in close games.

The Bulldogs are counting on offensive versatility and improved defense down the stretch to take them to a higher level.