SALEM -- A new tradition starts tonight.
Before Salem International changed its name from Salem-Teikyo, the university had already made a move in its athletic department.
David Crosier took over as the women's basketball coach after Roger Lefebvre stepped down to return to Arizona, where he was an assistant men's coach at Grand Canyon University.
But Crosier is familiar with the SIU program. He was Lefebvre's assistant for two years.
"There's a big difference, especially as far as responsibilities," Crosier said. "It's a challenge, and I'm very excited about it."
His challenge starts tonight in his team's opener against Columbia Union at the T. Edward Davis Gymnasium.
The Tigers feature four new starters with former Lincoln standout, redshirt junior Chrissy Luchuck, the lone returner.
"The girls are very excited to play against someone besides themselves," Crosier said.
Joining Luchuck in the lineup are point guard Twaina Bennett, center Cathy Vanco, forward Lashonda Tucker and freshmen guard Nicci Downey, who was a two-year Class AAA All-stater from Huntington High.
Bennett played in three contests last season before injuring her knee, and Crosier expects big things out of Bennett.
"Obviously as our point guard, she needs to step it up," Crosier said. "But she makes unbelievable passes and wants to win. She's all about team, but it'll be a question if she shows up and plays hard all the time."
Brooke Lamb, a part-time starter on last season's 9-17 team, will be one of the first reserves off the bench and will see time in the starting lineup during the season, Crosier said.
Freshmen guards Monique Wright and Courtney Weekley and senior forwards Charlis Jordan and Shacara Shackles also will see time off the bench.
"We play a little more up tempo than last year with a high energy, in-your-face defense," Crosier said. "The keys for us will be defense and rebounding.
"We're going to score points with the talent we have, so I'm not concerned with that. I'm concerned about the defense and rebounding."
Tip-off is 6 p.m.
Assistant sports editor Danny Carpenter can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at email@example.com.