By Rob Rose
With tipoff of the 2017-18 season less than a month away, it’s time to take a look at how things are shaping up this year for MAAC women’s basketball. Last season, Quinnipiac defeated Rider in the MAAC Championship, and the Bobcats went on to shock the nation and reach the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament. Here are my thoughts on how this season will play out, as well as the key players for each program.
1. Quinnipiac (27-6, 17-3 MAAC): Key Player: Junior guard Jen Fay
Following a season that saw them win their second MAAC Championship in school history and make the Sweet 16, the Bobcats have a solid core returning. Junior guards Jen Fay and Aryn McClure were named to the All-MAAC Third Team last season, while senior guard Carly Fabbri, Head Coach Tricia Fabbri’s daughter, made the All-MAAC Championship team along with Fay and McClure. Using the experience they gained pulling upsets over No. 5 Marquette and No. 4 Miami in their first NCAA Tournament wins, the Bobcats are the favorite to win the MAAC again.
2. Rider (24-8, 16-4 MAAC): Key Player: Senior guard Kamila Hoskova
With the departure of 2017 MAAC Player of the Year Robin Perkins, the Broncs are looking for a new leader. Kamila Hoskova, one of only two seniors on the roster, is returning after an All-MAAC Second Team season. Hoskova was the leading scorer for Rider, after averaging 12.8 ppg last season. Alongside her in the backcourt will be sophomore guard Stella Johnson. After averaging 9.9 ppg and leading all MAAC freshmen in field goal percentage (51.1 percent) and steals per game (2.8), Johnson was named to the 2016-17 MAAC All-Rookie Team. Looking to return to the MAAC Championship game this season, 2017 MAAC Coach of the Year Lynn Milligan will lean on Hoskova and Johnson to lead the Broncs.
3. Iona (18-13, 12-8 MAAC): Key Player: Junior guard Alexis Lewis
Junior guard Alexis Lewis was named to the All-MAAC First Team last season. Lewis finished third in the MAAC with 15.9 ppg, second in rebounds per game (rpg) with 8.3 and was tied for the league lead in double-doubles, with 10. Without fellow All-MAAC First teamer Marina Lizarazu, Lewis could become the leading scorer in the MAAC this year and is a potential Player of the Year candidate.
4. Marist (15-17, 11-9 MAAC): Key Player: Sophomore guard Rebekah Hand
Sophomore guard Rebekah Hand returns for the Red Foxes after winning 2016-17 MAAC Rookie of the Year. Hand led all freshmen in the league with 13.4 ppg, 6.8 rpg and was second with 3.1 assists per game( apg). Her twin sister, sophomore guard Hannah Hand, also made the All-Rookie team last season. With 10.2 ppg, she was third-best amongst MAAC freshmen. With these two talented sophomores, Marist could be a team on the rise this season.
5. Monmouth (15-16, 9-11 MAAC): Key Player: Sophomore guard Kayla Shaw
The Hawks are led by a trio of talented sophomores. Guard Kayla Shaw was named to the MAAC All-Rookie Team for the 2016-17 season after averaging 11.3 ppg. Shaw led the MAAC in three-pointers made (88), three-pointers attempted (213) and three-point percentage (41.3 percent). Guard Alaina Jarnot led the team with 3.1 apg while forward Alexa Middleton is the leading returning rebounder with 6.4 rpg last season. With a year of experience under their belts, these young Hawks will climb up the MAAC rankings this season.
6. Siena (14-16, 13-7 MAAC): Key Player: Senior guard Kollyns Scarbrough
The loss of junior guard Jackie Benitez will be a huge factor for the Saints this season. Benitez was named to the All-MAAC First Team and was Defensive Player of the Year for the 2016-17 season. Benitez was second in the MAAC in points per game (16.6), steals per game (3.0), free throw percentage (82.1 percent) and three-pointers made per game (2.8). She transferred to James Madison for this upcoming season. Senior guard Kollyns Scarbrough will lead the Siena offense this season, following an All-MAAC Second Team campaign. Scarbrough is the Saints leading returning scorer and rebounder, averaging 13.6 ppg and 6.3 rpg.
7. Fairfield (17-14, 13-7 MAAC): Key Player: Senior forward Samantha Cooper
With the loss of All-MAAC First and Third teamers Kelsey Carey and Casey Smith, Fairfield will turn to senior forward Samantha Cooper. The leading returning scorer for the Stags, Cooper averaged 10.8 ppg and 8.2 rpg last season, while junior guards Kendra Landy and Casey Foley will run the offense for Fairfield. Losing three seniors could see the Stags have a down year.
8. Niagara (8-22, 5-15 MAAC): Key Player: Senior forward Victoria Rampado
Senior forward Victoria Rampado led the MAAC in scoring last season with 16.8 ppg and was fourth in rebounding with 7.9 rpg. Finishing on the All-MAAC Second Team, Rampado will likely finish on the All-MAAC First Team this season and is a definite Player of the Year candidate.
9. Canisius (10-21, 8-12 MAAC): Key Player: Junior forward Sara Hinriksdottir
Junior forward Sara Hinriksdottir was named to the All-MAAC Second Team after averaging 14.8 ppg and 5.8 rpg last season. Canisius returns four of its five leading scorers, as they look to improve on a 10-win season. Hinriksdottir will be a potential All-MAAC First Team player if she can build on a strong sophomore season.
10. Manhattan (8-22, 4-16 MAAC): Key Player: Senior forward Kayla Grimme
The Jaspers had a rough season, winning only four MAAC contests. Senior forward Kayla Grimme had a strong season despite their struggles, earning a spot on the All-MAAC Third Team. Grimme averaged 14.6 ppg, 7.7 rpg and led the MAAC with 2.0 bpg. Grimme will be near the top of the statistical leaders this season, but the Jaspers could struggle to compete again.
11. Saint Peter’s (3-27, 2-18): Key Player: Sophomore forward Zoe Pero
Not much went right for the Peacocks last season, with only three wins on the year. The lone bright spot on the team was the performance of sophomore forward Zoe Pero, who made the MAAC All-Rookie team. Pero averaged 7.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg and led the MAAC with an 82.2 free-throw percentage. This season is shaping up to be another tough one for Saint Peter’s, but it is a young team.