By Logan VanDine
After a 10-21 season by Rider women’s basketball, the new squad is looking to prove all doubters wrong after the Broncs were ranked 10th in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference preseason poll.
Head Coach Lynn Milligan felt good about her team during practice as the Broncs have been honing their skills and working out together since July.
“It’s been looking really good. When you have a roster with new faces, we’re always working on our chemistry, working on just getting to know one another on and off the court and I think we’ve done a really good job with that,” Milligan said. “I think our players are pretty locked in on understanding the correlation between on off the court relationships, so I think they have done a really good job with that,”
Milligan also talked about her team’s eagerness to learn and train hard.
“I think the newness of this team and the willingness of this team gets me really excited because I think our energy and our competitiveness is there on a daily basis,” said Milligan. “They’re just willing to learn, willing to listen, willing to be coached, willing to play hard and willing to understand what our vision is and know what our goals are so this has been a willing group and it’s been really fun.”
The team has many key players leaving, like guard Amanda Mobley, center Victoria Tommey and forward Raphaela Toussaint graduating or transferring. Milligan dove into what her team must work on if they want to avenge their 21-loss season a year ago.
“I think overall some of our obvious weaknesses have been rebounding over the last couple of years. I think we’ve corrected that, with a healthy ToniRenee Blanford,” Milligan said. “Our postgame has just gotten a lot better with freshmen like Sam [Richardson] and Kaylan [Deveney] and Sofie [Bruintjes] is going to be a totally different player this year, so our post group is filled with a lot of depth in the post group that want to go rebound so I think we’ve done a good job in correcting that.”
Defense is something that Milligan puts a strong emphasis on.
“We obviously have to defend better overall and every team wants to be a good defensive team so we need our perimeter defense to be on point to help our bigs,” she said.
The Broncs will also be debuting three freshmen this season: guard Aliya McIver, forward Sam Richardson and center Kaylan Deveney.
“Some days they look like freshmen and some days they look really, really good, you can see the development,” Milligan said. “Kay and Sam are both good strong post-players for us. Post-play at the division one level compared to high school is very different, it’s much more physical, it’s faster so I think they’ve both done a really great job with that and Aliya as point guard playing that position as a freshman is a challenge and I think she’s met it head on so I expect all three of them to be a big piece in what we are trying to do.”
McIver opened up about how her tenure has been so far with the Broncs.
“With practice well underway I would describe my tenure as great. I’ve learned a lot just being here for four months, on and off the court from both my teammates and coaches. I’m very confident on how well our team will play this year,” McIver said.
Despite the young faces, the Broncs have some much-needed veteran presence back on their team with players like senior forward Bruintjes, senior guards Makalya Firebaugh and Molly Lynch, as well as graduate student guard Jessika Schiffer.
“It’s huge, they have been here with me the longest, our philosophy is all heart and soul and they absolutely know what that means and they know how we like to do things and how we like to progress and how we want to handle ourselves on a day to day basis so all of our five returning players have done an amazing job relaying that to the other kids,” Milligan said.
Firebaugh also talked about the state of the team and how she has felt practice has gone now that she is taking on the role of veteran leadership.
“Everything’s been good. Obviously we have been growing every day which is the goal,” Firebaugh said. “Physically I feel good and mentally I think everybody’s finally realizing what it takes to individual basketball players especially and everyone’s been growing every day.”
As for Milligan, she will be entering her 17th season as the head coach for the women’s basketball team and she described her run as the head coach so far.
“I’m very proud of what we have done with this program for the past 17 years, we’ve done things that have never been done with the program, on paper do we want more wins, absolutely. Have we had some great years, have we hung some banners, yes. We’ve had WNBA players, professional players, great wins, tough losses, we’ve had great student-athletes and incredible young women come into this program so we are really proud of that,” she said. “We want to keep pushing forward, we’ve been at the top and obviously, slid down the last couple of years but we are not going to lower our expectations.”
The Broncs are scheduled to play in a home exhibition game against TCNJ on Nov. 1 at 7 p.m.