By Brandon Scalea
After a 2014-15 season that saw Quinnipiac dominate MAAC play, several teams in the conference are returning key players, which will definitely shake things up. Traditionally, the MAAC is one of the most competitive conferences in women’s basketball, and here are my predictions for how the conference will look at the end of the year.
- Fairfield (15-16, 13-7 MAAC)
Key player: Redshirt junior forward Casey Smith
Although the Stags finished with a losing overall record last season, they are the team with the most tools in place to take the MAAC crown. Smith and senior guard Kristin Schatzlein were 14th and 15th in scoring last season with 11.9 and 11.6 ppg, respectively. With this duo returning for 2015-16, Fairfield should be an offensive machine.
- Quinnipiac (31-4, 20-0 MAAC)
Key player: Redshirt junior guard Adily Martucci
When a team wins 20 consecutive games in the MAAC, it’s hard to pick against them the following season. However, the Bobcats will have to rely on remaining veterans to carry what has become a young team. Last season, Martucci appeared in all 35 games off the bench and averaged 6 ppg. With a more dominant role and experience this season, the 5-foot-8 guard might be hard to stop.
- Marist (21-12, 15-5 MAAC)
Key player: Sixth-year senior center Tori Jarosz
The 10-time MAAC women’s basketball champions are always a threat to make some noise in the conference. Along with reigning First Team All-MAAC honoree Jarosz, who was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA, the Red Foxes return senior guard Sydney Coffey, who was named Third Team All-MAAC last season. Going into Poughkeepsie, New York and leaving with a win is not going to be easy.
- Siena (22-13, 11-9 MAAC)
Key player: Sophomore forward Margot Hetzke
Coming off a fifth-place finish in the conference last season, Siena is led by Hetzke, the returning MAAC Rookie of the Year. Hetzke finished eighth in the conference in scoring with 12.7 ppg and fourth in rebounds with 7.4 per game. Overall, the Saints are a very good rebounding team and will look to take advantage of that this year.
- Iona (15-15, 12-8 MAAC)
Key player: Senior forward Joy Adams
The Gaels are another case of a young team needing to rely heavily on the remaining seniors. Last year, Adams was named First Team All-MAAC and ranked fourth in the conference with 14.2 ppg. Overall, Iona ranked second in the conference with 69 ppg, and led the MAAC in free-throw percentage at 76.5 percent.
- Monmouth (13-18, 8-12 MAAC)
Key player: Senior forward Amanda Offenback
The Hawks are a team that can only get better. After last season’s sub-par finish, Monmouth returns much of its roster, which includes six seniors. In 2014-15, Offenback made 13 starts and averaged 3.1 rebounds per game, taking advantage of her 6-foot frame.
- Niagara (14-17, 9-11 MAAC)
Key player: Senior guard Taylor McKay
After missing all of last season due to injury, McKay is back for her senior season and will be ready to lead Niagara on an uphill climb in the MAAC. She’s proved in the past that she has a great combination of size and athleticism. Unfortunately for her, the Purple Eagles are another extremely inexperienced team in the conference.
- Canisius (10-20, 8-12 MAAC)
Key player: Senior guard Tiahana Mills
Coming off an exceptional junior campaign, Mills is ready for a more dominant role in 2015-16. Last year, she was named Big 4 Player of the Week and was named to the All-Big 4 Team at the end of the season after averaging 10.4 ppg. The Golden Griffins will have to look for the 5-foot-5 guard in key situations if they want to do some damage in the MAAC.
- St. Peter’s (5-26, 4-16 MAAC)
Key player: Junior forward/center Kaycee DeVoogd
After last year’s five-win season and 10th place finish, it does not look as though St. Peter’s will be much of a threat in 2015-16. Their best bet is to feed the ball to DeVoogd, who at 6-foot-2, will likely be the biggest player on the court. There are four other Peacocks who stand at 6-feet, so their size could come into play.
- Rider (11-20, 8-12 MAAC)
Key player: Junior center Julia Duggan
Head Coach Lynn Milligan guided the Broncs to a modest eight wins in the MAAC last season, but don’t expect much from her team this time around. As a junior, Duggan will be challenged with the leadership role that goes along with being an upperclassman and the starting center. She did have decent numbers last year, leading the team in successful free-throws (56) and posting 7.6 ppg.
- Manhattan (3-27, 2-18 MAAC)
Key player: Senior forward Shayna Ericksen
This will be another year in which Jasper Nation should count on its men’s team to bring a championship to Riverdale. However, Ericksen has the offensive potential to give Manhattan life in the conference. The former MAAC Rookie of the Year is coming off a season where she led her team in points per game and rebounding.