Betsy Witman is a straight shooter when it comes to talking about her York College women's basketball team.
If the Spartans don't perform well on a particular night, she won't hesitate to point out the flaws.
If a certain player didn't live up to expectations, Witman will highlight what that player needs to improve on.
So it was worth sitting up and paying attention last week when Witman, entering her 17th year as the Spartans' coach, divulged her thoughts on the upcoming 2013-14 season, which kicks off Friday when York plays host to Pitt-Bradford at 6 p.m. in the two-day Coaches vs. Cancer Classic at the Grumbacher Center.
"This is definitely the most talented and deepest top-to-bottom team we've had," Witman said. "We could literally put anybody out there."
It was 4:30 p.m. late Thursday afternoon in Witman's office inside the athletic department at the Grumbacher Center when she made the comments. Witman at her desk and assistant coach Sue Kuhn on a couch, the coaches' eyes stayed glued to a TV watching the game film from the previous night's scrimmage against Millersville.
The NCAA Division III Spartans beat D-II Millersville in the preseason match-up. Millersville is picked to win the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference's East Division.
The same starting five that began last season for York is returning, along with several key bench players who saw significant action on a team that finished 20-7 overall a year ago. Added to the roster are six talented freshman -- including West York grad Sarah Shearer -- and two solid transfers -- one of them former York Catholic standout Karli McFatridge.
CAC: If there's such a thing as picking the wrong year to have a loaded roster, York College would fit the mold. Despite the returning talent and new additions, the Spartans were picked by the CAC coaches to finish fourth in the conference this season.
A part of that is the addition of Christopher Newport University to the conference. After reaching the Elite Eight of the NCAA D-III tournament last season, Christopher Newport is picked to win the CAC and sits at No. 6 in the nation in the preseason USA Today Coaches' poll.
"It will be twice as hard this year with CNU entering and we have to play them at least twice," Witman said. "Everybody else has gotten better. Even Wesley has gotten decent and they're picked last in our conference."
Three seasons removed from last winning the Capital Athletic Conference tournament and two seasons removed from reaching the Sweet 16 of the NCAA D-III tournament, York has a chip on its shoulder after a surprising loss in the CAC semifinals prevented the Spartans from reaching the NCAA tourney.
"Well, I think the fact that we didn't make the NCAA tournament last year after getting off to the great start and being ranked (as high as) 11th in the nation, I think it was disappointing not just for the coaching staff but for the team," Witman said. "These upperclassmen are extremely motivated by that. They know they did not do enough to deserve to be in that tournament and they're probably still kicking themselves for it. But I think that's motivated them."
-- Reach John Walk at email@example.com.
York College women's basketball at a glance.
The York College 2013-14 women's basketball season kicks off at 6 p.m. Friday when the Spartans play host to Pitt-Bradford in the first round of the two-day Coaches vs. Cancer Classic at the Grumbacher Center.
Here are some key York players to watch out for this season.
---York's starting five will feature seniors and three-year starters Aja Wallpher, Brittany Hicks, Kristen Haley and Kelsey Murphy, along with junior guard Jess Selby, who scored a career-high 16 points in her first career start in last year's opener before going down for the season in the team's second game with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
---York added transfers Shea Wassel and Karli McFatridge. Wassel, a 6-foot, 1-inch junior, averaged 15 points and 9.8 rebounds in 26 starts for NCAA Division III Gwynedd-Mercy last season. McFatridge, a York Catholic grad, averaged 2.6 points and 2.1 rebounds in 20 games off the bench for D-III Juniata a year ago.
---York has nine players standing 5-10 or taller, second-most in the Capital Athletic Conference behind Christopher Newport University.
---York College head coach Betsy Witman said freshman Sarah Shearer, a West York grad, will see limited action until at least January. Shearer continues to recover from knee surgery that resulted from an injury sustained 10 months ago.