Women’s Basketball: Patriot League Preview
By Hannah Yoshinaga
The last time we saw Patriot League women’s basketball, Lehigh took home the 2021 title in a triumphant upset over BU and earned an NCAA Tournament berth. Now, with crowds back in arenas, non-conference games returned to every team’s schedule and turnover on rosters across the league, Patriot League basketball certainly looks different than it did just nine months ago.
Bucknell University (9-2)
Last season: Bucknell went undefeated in Patriot League play, posting an 8-0 record to take the top seed in the conference. After handily beating Loyola MD in the quarterfinals, the Bison fell 63-54 to Lehigh, which later captured the conference title.
Additions: F/G Remi Sisselman (freshman), G Cecelia Collins (freshman), F/G Isabella King (freshman)
Losses: F Tessa Brugler (grad transferred to Drexel University), G Ally Johnson (graduated), F Autumn Ceppi (grad transferred to Bentley University), G Abby Kapp (graduated), G Bridget Tobin (graduated)
Returning players: G Taylor O’Brien, G Marly Walls, G Tai Johnson, G Carly Krsul, F Emma Shaffer, G Caroline Dingler, F Kaylee Reinbeau, F Nicole Davis, F Julie Kulesza
Where they stand: Bucknell closed its non-conference slate with six straight wins, led by senior guard Taylor O’Brien. O’Brien is averaging 18.3 points per game, second-best in the conference, along with 5.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 2.3 steals per contest. Freshman Cecelia Collins has also been a bright spot, averaging 11.9 points per game and shooting 44.4% from deep. O’Brien and Collins, along with junior forward Carly Krsul, have made the Bison the third-highest-scoring offense in the Patriot League thus far. They’re also the top three-point shooting team in the league, in addition to averaging the fewest turnovers and sinking the second-most free throws.
The Bison seem to have few areas for improvement, although rebounding is one of them. Bucknell averages just 34.2 rebounds per game, which won’t cut it against teams with more size and length. The Bison will get a challenge right off the top with a season-opening matchup against BU, which has arguably the strongest duo of post players in the conference.
Lehigh University (8-3)
One of the very best.
Senior @EmmaGrothaus became the 28th Mountain Hawk to reach 500 career rebounds after she grabbed 20 yesterday vs. GW. She's currently tied for 24th all-time.#GoLehigh | #SoarWithUs pic.twitter.com/NlcuJBkaz6
— Lehigh Women's Basketball (@LehighWBB) December 22, 2021
Last season: Lehigh finished fifth in the conference with a 7-5 record but defeated #1 Bucknell and #2 BU en route to the 2021 Patriot League title. The Mountain Hawks faced off against West Virginia in the NCAA Tournament, losing 77-53.
Additions: G Ella Stemmer (freshman), F Kaylee Van Eps (freshman), Meghan O’Brien (freshman)
Losses: F Mariah Sexe (graduated), G Mary Clougherty (grad transferred to Georgetown University), G Katie Rice
Returning players: G Anna Harvey, G Clair Steele, G Megan Walker, G Frannie Hottinger, F Emma Grothaus, G/F Jamie Behar, G Fabienne Eggenschwiler, G Mackenzie Kramer, G Maddie Albrecht, F/C Jackie Vargas-Bines, G/F Maggie Brown
Where they stand: Lehigh has displayed a high-powered, well-balanced offense thus far this season, averaging 76.9 points per game — eight points higher than any other team in the Patriot League. They also generate 18.09 assists each game, which is far more than any of their conference counterparts. In fact, there are few measures in which the Mountain Hawks don’t find themselves in the top three.
A major part of the Mountain Hawks’ success thus far has been key returners from last season — including junior forward Frannie Hottinger, who is averaging 16.8 points per game, and senior forward Emma Grothaus, who is grabbing the fourth-most rebounds per game in the Patriot League. Sophomore guard Mackenzie Kramer has also been a breakthrough for Lehigh. She’s been a menace from the three-point line, where she’s shooting 44.3% on eight attempts per game. The combination of the Mountain Hawks’ strength and scoring ability in the frontcourt mixed with their offensive potency in the backcourt certainly puts them in a favorable position to make another title run in March.
American University (7-3)
Last season: Despite having several games canceled due to COVID-19 complications, the Eagles finished 6-3. After blowing out Army in the Patriot League quarterfinals, American had a rough match of its own in the semis and lost 72-51 to BU.
Additions: Bailey Garbee (freshman), Jordyn Meunier (freshman), Riley DeRubbo (transferred from Fordham University)
Losses: F TaeKenya Cleveland (graduated), G Indeya Sanders (grad transferred to the University of Denver), F Thuraya Abdul Hamid, G/F Keagan Schwab (transferred to the University of Mary Washington)
Returning players: G Emily Fisher, G Sadie Stetson, G Jade Edwards, F Taylor Brown, F Karla Vres, G Maddie Doring, F Lauren Stack, G Laura Graytok, G Ivy Bales, G Kayla Henning, F Emily Johns
Where they stand: The Eagles have established themselves as the most efficient scoring team in the conference, making 44.7% of their shots. Senior guard Jade Edwards is leading the effort with 14.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists each contest. Taylor Brown has been another big contributor with 11.2 points and 5.5 rebounds per game.
While American finds itself with the third-best record in the conference thus far, the Eagles haven’t shown quite the same levels of depth that some other top Patriot League contenders have. Edwards and Brown are carrying a bulk of the load on offense and a bulk of the team’s minutes, which will be a tall task to maintain all conference-season long if American wants to hang with teams like Bucknell, Lehigh and BU. The Eagles will also need to improve their shooting from deep — where they currently shoot just 28.1%, eighth-best in the conference — to force opposing defenses to stay accountable.
Army West Point (5-3)
Last season: Army posted a respectable 5-3 record in conference play, but faced nearly a month-long layoff between its final regular-season game and its first playoff matchup due to COVID-19-related cancelations. The Black Knights then lost by 20 points to American in their playoff debut, marking an abrupt end to an up-and-down season.
Additions: Vasana Kearney (freshman), Trinity Hardy (freshman), Ashlyn Bigelow (freshman), Jaida Strippoli (first-year junior)
Losses: F Jessica Rawls (graduated), F Liz Layne (graduated), G Kaci Helmick (graduated)
Returning players: G Natalie Rhine, F Kamryn Hall, G Sarah Bohn, F Sabria Hunter, F Lindsey Scamman, G Hope Brown, F Kate Murray, F Taylor Sullivan, G Natalie Stralkus, G Melanie George, G Sam McNaughton, F Reagan Warren, G Lauren Lithgow, F McKenzie Muse, G Alisa Fallon
Where they stand: After Army’s offense struggled for much of last season, the Black Knights came back with a vengeance this year with 69.0 points per game. Junior forward Sabria Hunter has taken a big step up and nearly doubled her scoring since last season while securing 10 rebounds per game. Freshman guard Trinity Hardy has been a major addition and has already inserted herself into the Rookie of the Year conversation with 13.4 points per game, leading all first-year players in the conference.
Army has had some trouble limiting opponents’ scoring opportunities — opponents are scoring 67.6 points per game, whereas the next worst defense in the conference, Colgate, allows 64.7 points per game. While the Black Knights have no problem grabbing steals and blocking shots, their defensive rebounding is eighth in the Patriot League and they allow opponents to shoot 43.1% from the field. With matchups against Bucknell, Lehigh and BU in Army’s first five games, the quality of its defense against conference counterparts will be determined quickly.
College of the Holy Cross (6-5)
A grand achievement!
Congratulations to @averylabarbera for becoming the 3⃣5⃣th player in program history to reach 1,000 career points! #GoCrossGo pic.twitter.com/LZpU4oTo9M
— Holy Cross Women's Basketball (@HCrossWBB) November 17, 2021
Last season: The Crusaders finished 7-7 in their first season under new head coach Maureen Magarity but were defeated 75-57 by Lehigh in the Patriot League Tournament. Forward Bronagh Power-Cassidy took home Rookie of the Year.
Additions: G Grace Munt (freshman), G Lauren Huber (freshman), F Lindsay Berger (freshman)
Losses: G Jenay Faulkner (graduated), C Shannon Murphy (graduated)
Returning players: G Addisyn Cross, F Oluchi Ezemma, G Avery LaBarbera, F Madison Demski, G Kelly Petro, F Janelle Allen, G Bronagh Power-Cassidy, G Cara McCormack, G Steph Davis
Where they stand: Senior guard Avery LaBarbera has continued to impress since she was given the reins last year. This season, she’s racking up 13.5 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.6 steals per game, despite Holy Cross facing one of the more challenging non-conference schedules in the Patriot League. The Crusaders are also getting efficient production from sophomore forward Bronagh Power-Cassidy and have benefitted from junior guard Addisyn Cross playing a bigger role in orchestrating the offense. In a turn of events from past seasons, Holy Cross has been effective on defense as well even though it doesn’t put up big numbers in terms of blocks or steals.
However, the Crusaders must improve from the free-throw line. 58.7% from the stripe will not cut it against top Patriot League opponents, especially those that may be more prone to foul against Holy Cross’ relatively small lineup.
Lafayette College (4-6)
Third-straight win ✅
First road win of the season ✅
First-ever win over UMBC ✅#RollPards pic.twitter.com/mTvoOcuDmg
— Lafayette WBB (@LafayetteWBB) December 10, 2021
Last season: Lafayette had high expectations entering the year, but faltered and ended up finishing in 8th place despite getting another monstrous season from senior forward Natalie Kucowski. Numerous postponed or canceled contests did nothing to help the Leopards’ cause. While they put up a fight in the Patriot League quarterfinals, they lost by six points to BU. Kucowski was named Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year and was later drafted with the 35th overall pick.
Additions: G Abby Antognoli (freshman), G Kylie Favours (freshman), G Taliyah Medina (transferred from Villanova University), C Aniya Matthews (transferred from Temple University), G Claire Gallagher (freshman)
Losses: G Drew Freeland (graduated), F Natalie Kucowksi (graduated and drafted by the Seattle Storm), G Sydney Sabino (graduated), G Alana Lombardi, G Amaya Douglas
Returning players: G Shanell Haskins, G Jess Booth, F Naomi Ganpo, G Nicole Johnson, G/F Makaila Wilson, F Kayla Drummond, G Makayla Andrews
Where they stand: Lafayette is one of two teams in the conference without a player ranked in the top 10 of Patriot League scorers and it shows on the stat sheet — the Leopards are posting only 54.7 points per game on 39.7% shooting from the floor. They’re also turning the ball over almost 19 times per game, which is concerning for a team that is also struggling to convert on its free-throw opportunities.
On the bright side, guard Makayla Andrews and Jessica Booth have both helped to lead the offense, and senior forward Makaila Wilson has been effective on the boards. Freshman guards Claire Gallagher and Abby Antognoli have also shown promise. However, whether all of those players — only one of whom averaged more than 15 minutes per game last year — are able to power a team to the top of the standings starting in just a few days is a different question.
Boston University (4-7)
A NEW career-high for Sydney Johnson – 24 points as she drains two from the foul line! 65-60 Terriers with 28.8 seconds left! #GoBU
Watch on ESPN+: https://t.co/WmCo5oDZF3 pic.twitter.com/guWHnr4W0j
— BU Women's Basketball (@TerrierWBB) November 18, 2021
Last season: The Terriers put the pieces together behind another standout season from point guard Katie Nelson, securing a second-place regular-season finish. However, it wasn’t enough to take home BU’s first conference title in the Patriot League, as the Terriers fell 64-54 to Lehigh in the championship game.
Additions: G/F Corinne Washington (freshman), G Alex Giannaros (freshman), F Caitlin Weimar (transferred from Marist College), G Lauren Davenport (freshman)
Losses: G Katie Nelson (grad transferred to the University of Wisconsin), F Ashley Sieper, G Tenisha Pressley (graduated), F Mackenzie Miers (graduated)
Returning players: G Liz Shean, G Chiara Tibbitt, G Annabelle Larnard, G Sydney Johnson, G Emily Esposito, G Maggie Pina, F Riley Childs, F Maren Durant, G Kelsi Mingo, G Sophie Beneventine
Where they stand: BU came into the season with a chip on its shoulder after falling just shy of a Patriot League title last year and had plenty of changes to deal with right off the bat — including first-year head coach Melissa D’Amico, a brand-new defense and a quicker offensive system. Though the Terriers might have hoped for a record better than 4-7 thus far, they adapted relatively well to all of those adjustments against several tough non-conference teams. Junior guard Sydney Johnson was given the reigns to the offense and has more than delivered with 13.8 points per game on 44.0% shooting. The Terriers also have a strong duo of post players in centers Caitlin Weimar and Maren Durant, which will be a tough assignment for any opponent.
While BU is perfectly capable of taking the top seed in the conference and could quickly emerge as a favorite, the Terriers still need to improve their free-throw shooting and ball security. Turning the ball over 20.1 times per game and making only 66.4% of their attempts from the charity stripe won’t cut it, but there aren’t many other major areas of concern that need to be addressed.
Loyola University Maryland (3-7)
Last season: It wasn’t a pretty season for the Greyhounds, who had two weeks’ worth of games canceled and finished 0-12. After surpassing 50 points only five times all year, their offense stalled again in the Patriot League quarterfinals and they were defeated 65-50 by #1 Bucknell.
Additions: Jonelle Price (freshman), Laura Salmeron (freshman), Keegan Douglas (freshman), Lex Therien (freshman)
Losses: F Isabella Therien (graduated), F Delaney Connolly (graduated)
Returning players: G Laryn Edwards, G Taleah Dixon, F Emma Glezen, G Bri Rozzi, F Emily McAteer, G Ava Therien, G Caramina Tanedo, G Devyne Newman, F Kayla Sieper, F Bella Steidle, F Charia Roberts
Where they stand: Senior guard Taleah Dixon has taken a big step up in terms of production from last season with 13.1 points per game, and she ranks 10th in the conference in scoring. The future is bright for the Greyhounds with freshmen Lex Therien and Laura Salmerón impressing and contributing just under 21 points per game, about 35% of Loyola MD’s entire offense.
Yet, a promise of future success hasn’t helped the Greyhounds much this season. None of their wins — including a one-point victory over Mount St. Mary’s — have been particularly confidence-inspiring. Rebounding has been an issue on both the defensive and offensive glass, and Loyola is the only team in the conference averaging fewer than one block per game. The Greyhounds’ realistic ceiling, for now, may be a mid-level seed, but they’ll face BU, Bucknell and Lehigh fairly early in their conference schedule, which should indicate where they’ll find themselves come March.
Naval Academy (3-7)
Points per game ✅
Rebounds per game ✅
Steals per game ✅
Minutes per game ✅
Total assists ✅
Coleman leads the League in at least five #PatriotWBB stat categories! pic.twitter.com/lpAYpKE3cB
— Patriot League (@PatriotLeague) December 18, 2021
Last season: Navy went 5-3 in conference play after going winless during its non-conference slate. However, COVID-19 troubles in the Mids’ Tier 1 group ended their season early February 24.
Additions: F Savanna Lewis (freshman), G/F Kriss Arjukese (freshman)
Losses: F Sierra Swanda (graduated), G Sophie Gatzounas (graduated), G Mikenzie Yim-Harvin
Returning players: G Kolbi Green, G Jennifer Coleman, G Mimi Schrader, G Imani Edmonds, F Lindsay Llewellyn, F Ciera Hertelendy, G Sam Schofield, F Morganne Andrews, G Kristina Donza, G Sydne Watts, G Darryl Langford
Where they stand: The Mids have an early Player of the Year candidate in senior guard Jennifer Coleman. Coleman is the league leader in points, rebounds, assists and steals per game, registering 23.7 PPG, 10.4 RPG, 5.0 APG and 3.1 steals per contest. She also averages 38.5 minutes per game, leading Navy on both ends of the floor from start to finish. Coleman’s reached 30 points twice this year and recorded double-doubles in six of the Mids’ 11 games.
It’s hard to imagine asking Coleman to do much more, but even with her tremendous performance thus far, Navy has the eighth-ranked offense and defense in the conference. The Mids make only 35.3% of their field-goal attempts, 27.2% of their threes and 65.6% of their free throws. Coleman could have a tall task ahead of her if Navy wants to escape the bottom of the Patriot League rankings unless some other team members up their production.
Colgate University (2-9)
Last season: The Raiders beat Army 87-76 in their season opener but never won another game, ending the year with a 1-8 record. Colgate had its final five games canceled and did not get a playoff matchup.
Additions: G Morgan McMahon (freshman), G Taylor Golembiewski (freshman), F Sophia Diehl (freshman)
Losses: G Nia Ahart (grad transferred to Northern Illinois University), G Keelah Dixon (grad transferred to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County), G Ava Williams (transferred to Weber State University)
Returning players: G Alexa Brodie, G Maggie Walsh, G Jenna Paul, G Taylor Langan, G Katlyn Ghavidel, F Alexa Naessens, F Holly Lueken, F Geddy Rerko, F Tiasia McMillan, G Morgan Frank, F Lindsay Blackmore
Where they stand: Colgate hardly got off to the start it might have been hoping for with only two wins during its non-conference schedule, one of which was by just two points. Only three players surpassed four points in the Raiders’ final non-conference contest, which was a 40-point blowout loss. They’re outscored by 11.9 points per game on average and they haven’t been able to connect from inside or outside the arc.
One of the few bright spots for Colgate has been freshman guard Taylor Golembiewski, who leads the team in scoring with 9.9 points per game. However, with so many veteran players lost in the offseason, the Raiders will be forced to rely on Golembiewski and other young players for much of their production. That will pose a huge challenge when it comes to Patriot League play.