By Thomas Regan
Following a 2013-14 season that ended with Marist winning its 10th MAAC championship in the last 13 years, several top teams watched vital pieces of their squad graduate, which will lead to a conference shake-up this year. Here is my prediction for how the 2014-15 season will finish.
1. Iona (last season: 26-6, 18-2 MAAC)
Key Player: Senior guard Damika Martinez
In her junior season, Martinez led Iona and the MAAC in scoring with 24.9 ppg, good for eighth in the nation. In addition, she was named MAAC Player of the Year, Metropolitan Basketball Writers’ Association (MBWA) Division I Player of the Year, as well as selected to the All-MAAC First Team. Martinez will again team up with junior center Joy Adams, who grabbed 14 rebounds per game in the 2013-14 season.
2. Marist (27-7, 18-2 MAAC)
Key Player: Junior forward
Marist was without a premier scoring threat such as Iona’s Martinez, but had players who could score from all over the court. As a result, the team finished second in the conference and went on to win the MAAC Championship in 2014. In her sophomore campaign, Blais made the All-MAAC second team and was named to the MAAC All-Academic team after averaging 12.9 points, 4 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game. Despite seeing three seniors graduate after the championship season, including leading-scorer Emma O’Connor, the Red Foxes’ 10-time MAAC Champion Head Coach Brian Giorgis will keep his team towards the top of the conference.
3. Quinnipiac (21-13, 14-6 MAAC)
Key Player: Senior guard Jasmine Martin
After finishing fourth in the conference, Quinnipiac was able to fight its way to the MAAC finals before losing to Marist 70-66. While the Bobcats were able to play that far into the tournament because of the strong play of their senior Brittany Mcquain, the team will have Martin return to help carry the load. Last season, Martin led the team with 15.1 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game. Quinnipiac will depend on Martin to vault the team into another top-four finish.
4. Canisius (13-17, 9-11 MAAC)
Key Player: Senior guard Kayla Hoohuli
Canisius made it to the quarterfinals in the 2013-14 MAAC tournament and saw Hoohuli score a career-high 23 points on one of the biggest stages of her career. Her stat-line for the season read 10.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game. Hoohuli also flashed her defensive potential with a team-high of 33 steals last season. Now a senior, Hoohuli was named the team captain and will look to push Canisius up into the top four.
5. Rider (15-17, 9-11 MAAC)
Key Player: Redshirt junior guard Emily Fazzini
Despite a sixth-place finish in the MAAC, Rider was able to make it to the MAAC Championship semifinals because of the shooting prowess of MyNeshia McKenzie. However, McKenzie graduated and the Broncs will need to find a way to replace her. Fazzini could be that answer. She lost most of last season to an ankle injury, but in the first four games she played, Fazzini averaged 9.8 points, 3 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game. If Fazzini can stay healthy and improve those numbers slightly, she could help bring the Broncs back to a top-six position. She will not have to do it alone, as redshirt senior guard Lashay Banks put up 8.5 points, 3.7 and 1 assist per game.
6. Niagara (10-20, 8-12 MAAC)
Key Player: Sophomore forward Victoria Rampado
Niagara was on the outside looking in for most of the 2013-14 season. They won their fair share of conference games, but with only one senior, the Purple Eagles failed to impress. This season, Niagara will have five seniors, including senior guard Meghan McGuinness, who was second on the team with 12.9 ppg last season. However, Rampado is the most intriguing player on the team, whose play could vault Niagara into the top six. In only nine starts as a freshman, the forward averaged 8.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game.
7. Fairfield (22-11, 15-5 MAAC)
Key Player: Junior guard Kristin Schatzlein
Fairfield finished third in the MAAC in the 2013-14 season, but saw its three top scorers graduate that spring. While the Stags earned a first-round bye in the MAAC tournament, they were knocked out in the quarterfinals by the sixth seed, Rider. Without an impact senior, the Stags will look towards their junior Schatzlein, who averaged 9.7 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game, to get them back to the playoffs. Serving as the leader of her team in only her junior season, Schatzlein may find it difficult to repeat last season’s magic, but should play well enough to help Fairfield finish near the middle of the conference.
8. Siena (9-22, 3-17 MAAC)
Key Player: Senior guard Tehresa Coles
Siena was able to win its only MAAC Championship game by blowing out Manhattan 87-66, and Coles’ 16 points led the offensive explosion. Coming off a junior season in which she totaled 10.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game, Coles will bring a more experienced style of play this season, which should help the Saints improve on their 10th-place finish in the MAAC.
9. Manhattan (9-21, 8-12 MAAC)
Key Player: Junior forward Shayna Ericksen
Manhattan found some success in the MAAC, but failed to impress in the tournament as the Jaspers were blown out by Siena in the first round. The team will try their best to forget that game, as they will look for Ericksen to improve on the 9.6 points, 6 rebounds and 0.8 assists per game she tallied last season. If they are going to avoid a repeat of last season, the Jaspers will rely on the junior to step up her game.
10. St. Peter’s (3-27, 2-18 MAAC)
Key Player: Antonia Smith
St. Peter’s completed its 2013-14 season in dead last in the MAAC with only two conference wins. After watching its leading scorer graduate, the Peacocks are in for another rough season. However, senior guard Antonia Smith, who scored 9.4 ppg in her junior season, will be able to keep the team from finishing last again.
11. Monmouth (8-25, 6-14 MAAC)
Key Player Junior guard Jasmine Walker
Monmouth was an interesting team last year, managing to win six conference games. It will certainly make matters worse that the Hawks lost their leading scorer, Chevannah Paalvast. Walker should be able to improve on her 7.4 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1 assist per game. However, it is hard to see the Hawks finishing much better than St. Peter’s, and will likely do worse in the 2014-15 season.