By Jordan Hall
Under Head Coach Lynn Milligan, the women’s basketball team has shown major progress each year, and this season, its expectations are even greater. With six of its seven leading scorers returning from one of the best teams the program has produced in the last decade, things already look promising for the Broncs.
“We have the deepest roster we have had since I’ve have been here,” said Milligan.
Rider ended the ’08-’09 campaign with a 10-20 record overall and a 7-11 mark in the league in Milligan’s second year. The 10 victories were the most since the 1999-2000 season, and the MAAC record was the second best all-time in school history.
Unfortunately, the Broncs were upset in the first round of the conference tournament by the last place seed, leaving a bitter taste in their mouths and something to prove this year.
A vital part to Rider’s past and future success is preseason First Team All-MAAC selection senior Tammy Meyers.
“She is one of the best guards in the MAAC and a leader by example,” Milligan said. “She will make her teammates better and understands what it takes for the team to be successful.”
The versatile competitor can play both the guard and forward position and was a true do-it-all type player for the Broncs last season. The Willingboro, N.J. native was more than reliable as she led Rider in scoring (14.2 ppg), assists (101), steals (55), field goals made (148), and free throws made (109) while starting all 30 games.
Another key returnee providing leadership and experience will be the floor general, senior Amanda Sepulveda. The point guard was the most durable and enduring player in the MAAC, leading the conference in minutes per game (34) and started every contest. She also finished third in the league in three-pointers made (69), proving to be a threat off the dribble and from long range while running the offense.
The Broncs possess depth and balance in the backcourt and boast good size and skill in the frontcourt. Junior guard Cintella Spotwood started 20 games last season and is the team’s third returning leading scorer, while sophomore Alyssa Parsons was a valuable backup to Sepulveda all year long, averaging 19.5 minutes per game.
In the post, Rider returns the All MAAC Rookie, center Sarah Homan. The sophomore’s presence led the Broncs in blocks (37) last season and was second in field goal percentage (.43). Senior captain Stephanie Wisniewski is a solid forward with size and experience who appeared in all 30 games last year and was extremely efficient, leading Rider in field goal percentage (.55).
Milligan brought in a talented group of four freshmen to complete an already talented bunch. Two guards, Dior Brown and Shereen Lightbourne, transition into the college game with impressive track records. Brown was the 62nd ranked guard in the freshman class on ESPN.com and Lightbourne has over 1,000 points under her belt from high school.
Contributing great length and height will be athletic forwards Carleigh Brown and Caitlin Bopp. Brown started in the Broncs’ exhibition win over West Chester, playing 23 minutes while Bopp compiled eight rebounds and six points in the victory.
The Broncs were selected fourth in the MAAC’s preseason poll, their highest ranking since the program entered the league in the 1997-1998 season.
Last season, the Broncs led the conference in rebounding offense and finished with a winning record on the road in MAAC competition. The team has plenty to build on this year but it understands that there is much room for improvement in order to take its game to a higher stage.
“Overall our team will improve in many aspects,” said Milligan. “We have focused on
continuing to be a good rebounding team and executing our offense. Transition defense and defending the three have also been a strong focus in the preseason.”
A challenging non-conference schedule with matchups against Seton Hall, La Salle and Syracuse on the road should prepare them mightily for league opponents.
Rider opens up its season tonight as the Broncs face Seton Hall at 7 p.m. in Alumni Gym.