While anxious head football coaches spent National Signing Day waiting for the nation’s top recruits to publicize their commitments, Michigan women’s baseball head coach Kevin Borseth sat back, having already signed four new Wolverines: guards Rebecca Lyttle, Symone Denham, Madison Ristovski and forward Kelsey Mitchell.
The prospects sent in their letters of intent on Nov. 9, which was early in the signing period. They’ll work to replace the loss of Michigan’s two outgoing seniors, guard Courtney Boylan and forward Carmen Reynolds — players that will be sorely missed.
Boylan and Reynolds have averaged a combined 21 points and 59 minutes per game this season. But it’s not just their on-court presence that will be missed. Their leadership will be, too, especially during high-pressure situations.
Reynolds, a three-year starter, is easily the most experienced Michigan player. And Boylan, the Wolverines’ floor general, has been the vocal leader for Michigan this season. Though Boylan only moved into the starting lineup during her junior season, she’s been a consistent scorer this year.
Without them, new players will have to step up. Michigan will be led by a core group of returning starters, but highly touted recruit Lyttle out of Hollywood, Fla. has the potential to make an immediate impact.
“Lyttle is an athlete, very athletic,” Borseth said after signing day. “She is very quick, very explosive (and) has great hands. She gives us a great deal of athleticism, particularly on the defensive end of the court.”
But it’s uncertain how effective Lyttle will be right away, as she tore her ACL early in her senior season. The Wolverines will be looking for a floor general, and if the 57th-ranked guard in the country rehabs successfully, she could be a difference maker.
Mitchell, a 6-foot forward out of Inkster, Mich., has averaged a double-double over two straight seasons at Inkster High School. Borseth believes that her size and strength will be critical for the Wolverines around the basket.
Whether they will see a lot of playing time or come off the bench, the incoming recruits will need to make the adjustment to the college life. At Media Day on Oct. 12, freshman forward Cyesha Goree said her adjustment to college wasn’t that difficult in terms of basketball but was in terms of being a different lifestyle.
Freshmen Nicole Elmblad and Brenae Harris had similar sentiments, though they have seen significant playing time this season. Recently, Elmblad found herself playing more minutes, which could be indicative of the experience she’s gained as the season progressed.
Elmblad and the rest of the young players’ ability to adapt has been critical for Michigan’s success. Borseth’s offense may not be the easiest to adjust to, but it allows players to be more creative in their attempts to score the basketball.
“The great thing about Coach Borseth’s system is he just allows you to play,” Boylan said. “He wants to put you in positions that keep you spaced on the floor, but what’s great is there’s not really set plays. He allows you to play the game that you’ve always played.”
The ability for the incoming Michigan players to integrate themselves into the system will be crucial for the team. But Borseth has faith that his 2012 class will find success doing so.
“This class as a whole gives us a lot of what we need,” Borseth said. “We need ball-handlers, we need defenders, and we need a big kid around that basket. We feel we have addressed a lot of areas that will help us grow.”