By Michael O’Brien
For many years, the women’s basketball team has been considered the laughingstock of the MAAC, having been through consecutive seasons of futility and bad luck. As the 2012-13 season approaches, there is genuine excitement around campus about this year’s squad, which seeks its best record since 2000.
The two players that will generate the most noise will be junior guard MyNeshia McKenzie and senior center and co-captain Caitlin Bopp, who are expected to be among the leaders in the MAAC in scoring and rebounding. McKenzie was named to the Preseason Second Team All-MAAC, while Bopp was named to the third team.
Grad student forward Carleigh Brown and sophomore guard Emily Fazzini are also expected to contribute in starting roles for most of the season.
Returning to the team is senior guard Sironda Chambers, who got off to a brilliant start last season, but was hampered with academic problems and forced to sit out the second half of the year.
The main concern with this team will be the inexperience of the point guards, but the team has two young players who can transition into the role smoothly: sophomore Kornelija Valiuiskyte, who was moved into an immediate starting role following the loss of Alyssa Parsons and came out blazing in the team’s final few games last year, and redshirt freshman Manon Pellet, who has recovered from an ACL injury last season, is showing signs of being a capable guard if given enough playing time.
Another potentially key player, redshirt junior Shereen Lightbourne, suffered another heartbreaking injury by tearing her left ACL back in September. She will miss this entire season.
The new freshmen include Janine Loutzenhiser, who could be a replacement for Bopp at center, and guard Mikal Johnson, who could see extended playing time with Pellet and Valiuiskyte.
Right now Marist is without a doubt the best team in the MAAC, but the Broncs have a lot of experienced players returning, and the expectations of the younger players will no doubt put the team in the hunt with Fairfield, Manhattan and Niagara as top-caliber teams in this conference. Rider students might soon be overcrowding the Broncs’ Zoo if the team gets off to a great start and continues to play well through conference play.
Prediction: 3rd place in MAAC regular season and no fewer than 18 wins.