By David Pavlak
Move over boys, the women’s basketball team is here to play, and they are not taking “no” for an answer this season.
Seven games in, the Broncs are 4-3, comparatively better seeing as they started last season a woeful 0-14 before notching their first victory over Canisius.
A lack of seniors is something that Head Coach Lynn Milligan believes hurt the team last season. The addition of these upperclassmen has helped the Broncs realize that now more than ever is the time to win.
“I think one of the biggest differences this year is we have seniors,” Milligan said. “Last year we didn’t have any seniors so it was hard for a young team to understand that every day counts and every day matters. When you have seniors that know the end is near, there is a sense of urgency in how you prepare and that carries over to the rest of the team.”
Those seniors, Ali Heller, Sarah Homan, Alyssa Parsons and Aisha Varnadore have been trying to give their best individual performances in order to help propel this team even further.
Last season, Heller, the MAAC 6th Player of the Year, appeared in 29 games and averaged eight points per game.She showcased her skills mostly from behind the arc, where she had a field goal percentage of .433. That stat earned her the number 10 ranking in the nation in three-point field goals percentage. She currently averages 22 minutes on the floor and nearly 10 points per-game, with her biggest game against St. Francis (N.Y.), where she went 6-10 behind the arc and finished the game with 26 points.
Homan is another energy player who sees time off the bench for the Broncs. The 6’3” center does most of her work down low in the paint, averaging 5.7 points per game while grabbing 40 rebounds. She scored a career high 20 points in a win against Lafayette. Both Parsons and Varnadore are also trying to make their mark in their final season while seeing limited time on the court. Parsons recently scored 11 points against Stony Brook.
“They want to win,” Milligan said. “Their teammates understand that, and we have really come together as a group with a mission and a process to achieve that mission.”
The true gems of this time lie in the underclassmen, which only makes you believe the Broncs are going to grow into a deeper team following the conclusion of the season.
Junior Caitlin Bopp, a normally consistent member of the Broncs, has been limited to three games this season due to a nagging foot injury. Junior Carleigh Brown has stepped into her place masterfully, scoring a career high 13 points during a 53-41 win over Stony Brook.
“Our philosophy has always been the same: ‘commitment with passion for a purpose,’” Brown said. “We are an older team now with more experience and having seniors with something to lose this year changes things. They have realized that this is their last chance to make the run we’ve all been trying for.”
Junior Sironda Chambers has also been an intricate member of the squad this season after transferring over from Harcum College. Her 20-point effort was one of the reasons that the Broncs battled so heavily against Georgetown.
Things only get better for the Broncs when you include star sophomore MyNeshia McKenzie, who is averaging 13 points per-game, has grabbed 71 rebounds and has stolen the ball 10 times. She is also shooting .422 from the floor.
The Broncs are currently sitting on four wins and can easily pick up two additionalwins with matches against NJIT and Binghamton in the weekends to come.
Being on the road for both games may be a tough task though, as the Broncs have gone 1-2 away from Alumni Gym.
The Broncs have also faced a tougher schedule this season with big games against Princeton and the 20th ranked team in the nation, Georgetown. The Broncs have a few games left in their out-of-conference schedule before they dive head first into their MAAC portion of their schedule. With a strong showing against their conference rivals, the Broncs have a chance to secure a top-ranked spot as the tournament approaches.
“We try to schedule opponents we feel will challenge us and prepare us for a very competitive MAAC schedule,” Milligan said. “We like to play different kinds of teams from different conferences to go against as many different styles of play as we can.”
With a renewed confidence, the Broncs have their eyes set on the MAAC championships even though the season is still in its early stages.
“With our aggressiveness and being able to compete with other teams, our goal as a team is to win the MAAC Championship, and that will be done taking it one game at time,” Chambers said.
With the men’s basketball team struggling to find their bearings, the women are gladly stepping into the spotlight and showing that they have what it takes to compete.