By Steven Eggert
Two games are left at Alumni Gym for the 2012-13 basketball season; the women’s team hopes to enter the MAAC tournament on a positive note.
Rider (14-13, 9-7 MAAC) takes on Siena (11-16, 7-9 MAAC) tonight at 7, followed by Iona (17-11, 12-5 MAAC) on March 3, which is also senior day.
This season has seen a huge turnaround by the Broncs. After a 3-15 record in conference play last season, they’ve tripled their MAAC win total this year.
Junior guard MyNeshia McKenzie believes the experience on the court has led to improvement.
“We are now a veteran team,” McKenzie said. “Before, we were all young and didn’t quite understand the concepts it took to be great, and now we have a better understanding. We have performed better because our chemistry is at an all-time high and we are connecting very well with each other.”
In the Broncs’ last game against Siena on Feb. 15, they defeated the Saints 73-61 on the road.
Siena’s senior forward Lily Grenci had 24 points and 14 rebounds last time they met. She is second in the MAAC with 15.1 ppg and third in rebounds with nine per game.
“Defensively, we did a good job with our perimeter players last time,” Head Coach Lynn Milligan said. “They have a great post player, but we did a good job of keeping everybody else in check. We’re going to try the same thing with their perimeter players, and then hopefully do a better job on Grenci than the first time.”
On March 3, the Broncs host Iona for senior day. Caitlin Bopp is one of four seniors who will be graduating after this season.
“I’m already getting emotional now just thinking about it,” Bopp said. “These have been the best four years of my life and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of this team.”
In addition to Bopp, the other three players graduating are graduate forward Carleigh Brown, guard Dior Brown and guard Sironda Chambers.
“They’re a terrific group of seniors,” Milligan said. “Carleigh, Dior and Caitlin have been with me for four years. Sironda came in as a transfer and has been with us for two years. When they got to this program, they wanted to make it a better place and they’ve worked really hard. I’m very proud of them.”
Rider will also seek retribution after losing 88-58 the last time these two teams faced off.
“Iona has some great players who love to shoot the ball,” Bopp said. “I think the last game got to everyone’s head and messed us up. We just need to focus on us, not Iona.”
Iona currently has a six-game win streak. The Broncs’ defense will need to improve if they want to win on March 3.
“In the Iona game, we didn’t play very good defense and they got off to a hot start, which hurt us,” McKenzie said. “In this game, we’re going to be focusing on defense. If our defense is on, that leads to great offense.”
Aside from undefeated Marist, the conference standings are very competitive going into the last weekend of the MAAC regular season. The Broncs are in fifth place in the conference, but can finish as high as second.
“The great thing about the conference this year is that everything is so tight,” Milligan said. “We have no idea who we’re playing or what seed we are. We know what seeds we’re not going to be, but we’re just going to keep working on us and try and get better every day.”