2020-2021 Patriot League Preview

A league realignment and funky schedule provide plenty of intrigue

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Senior Tessa Brugler will be looking for her third Patriot League title in four seasons. Can anyone stop the Bison in 2020-21? (Photo courtesy of Bucknell Athletics)

The season may be episodic, and the schedule a bit wonky, but Patriot League fans can look forward to what may be the wildest and most entertaining season in league history. Opening day begins with conference play—which makes the chase for the title a sprint to the finish.

While the threat of the coronavirus pandemic continues to evolve, there is a sense of optimism and anticipation now that the League Council of Presidents has permitted the season to begin play on January 2nd. A new format includes alignment changes to the league and a 16-game regular-season schedule.

This year, the league will be divided into three regional parts with teams playing four divisional games against each opponent in its section. Instead of the traditional home and away match-ups versus each league program, teams will play more games against league squads that are closer geographically for health and safety reasons. One important takeaway is that schools will not compete against every team in the league during the regular season.

The divisional breakdown:

NORTH: Army, Boston University, Colgate, Holy Cross

CENTRAL: Bucknell, Lafayette, Lehigh

SOUTH: American, Loyola (MD), Navy

It’s all unchartered territory. Some teams will see opponents four or even six times on the season; all teams will compete on back-to-back days on weekends; and there are no non-conference games allowed with exceptions for Army and Navy.

Last season, the pandemic forced the cancellation of the conference tournament on the day semi-finals were to be played. Bucknell was awarded an NCAA berth based on a first-place regular-season performance—four games ahead of second-place finisher, Boston University. Bucknell finished at 24-6, their fifth straight 20-win season.

Although there is a sense of uncertainty as the season grows closer, between the lines there are plenty of storylines and intrigue as we tip-off.

Can the Bison do it again? They graduated the Patriot League Player of the Year in Ellie Mack, but return all other players from the rotation. Will Boston University continue its steady climb to the top of the league under Head Coach Marisa Moseley? The Terriers lost only one starter to graduation and add Villanova transfer Emily Esposito to the mix. How will coaching changes at Navy and Holy Cross impact those programs?

Will a father-daughter coaching match-up between head coaches Maureen Magarity (Holy Cross) and Dave Magarity (Army) decide a playoff spot in the North division? The teams are scheduled to play each other four times.

Are there other contenders ready to dethrone Bucknell? There are some Leopards over in Easton ready to stake a claim behind star--and Player of the Year candidate--Natalie Kucowski. We’ll find out soon enough if they’re ready for the challenge as upstart Lafayette gets four match-ups with the defending champions in the regular season. Can Lehigh re-load after the departure of its celebrated senior class? Following a 19-win season, Colgate also graduated a large class and seems to be in a rebuilding mode—or are they?

Let’s take a look at each team followed by our pre-season predictions:

AMERICAN UNIVERSITY EAGLES

2019-2020 record: 13-17 (8-10, 7th place)

Head Coach: Megan Gebbia, 8th season

Record at American: 130-93

Career NCAA record: 130-93

Gebbia is a two-time Patriot League Coach of the Year. She’s made American a consistent competitor for the league title, claiming championships in the 2014-15 and 2017-18 seasons.

Gebbia has served as assistant coach at Marist, Wright State, UMBC, and Towson.She signed a contract extension last summer that will keep her on the sidelines at AU through the 2024-2025 season.

KEY RETURNERS: (last season’s stats)
G- Indeya Sanders, 5’6, SR: 6.9 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 4.2 APG, 38% FG, 54 steals, 33.4 MPG, 30 starts, Patriot League All-Defensive Team

G-Jade Edwards, 5’10, JR: 14.5 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 45.8% FG, 1.6 APG, 33.3 MPG, 29 starts, Second Team All-Patriot League

BIGGEST LOSSES: (last season’s stats)
G- Kaitlyn Marenyi, 5’8, SR: 13.0 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 3.4 APG, 36.8% FG, 1.8 APG, 42 steals, 34.2 MPG, 30 starts, Third Team All-Patriot League (graduated)

NEWCOMERS:

G- Ivy Bales, 5’10, (Gatlinburg, TN), FR: Combo guard with good shooting ability. Has an effective first step off the dribble and can attack and finish at the rim. Played for Gatlinburg-Pittman High School and earned Division 1 Class AA All-State as a senior.

G- Kayla Henning, 5’7, (Evanston, IL), FR: Point guard from Evanston High School who excels in an up-tempo game and is an effective distributor when attacking the paint. Averaged 14.1 PPG, 4.2 RPG and 5.7 APG and was named Central Suburban League Player of the Year in her senior season.

G- Keagan Schwab, 5’9, (Fairfax Station, VA), FR: Shooting guard from South County High School. High percentage perimeter shooter when feet set.

F- Emily Johns, 6’1, (Washington Township, NJ), FR: Physical low-post player with shooting range and good footwork in the post. 16.0 PPG and 8.0 RPG as a senior, finishing with 1,558 points and 1,004 rebounds for Washington Township High School.

OUTLOOK: The Eagles had a down season last year as graduation losses hit hard and the recruiting class failed to grow into any significant contributing roles in game competition. American was a very young team a season ago—nine of their 13 players were either freshmen or sophomores. Despite the inexperience, the team still found a way to grab some quality wins against strong teams from Boston University, Colgate, and Lehigh.  And the Eagles also nearly upset the Terriers in the playoffs, falling 46-44 in one of their best defensive games of the season.

Gebbia and her staff have a reputation as strong recruiters but last year’s class remains a question mark coming into the season. The good news for Eagle fans is that this year’s group of freshmen will compete for court time. The recruiting class is much improved and you can expect a couple of the newcomers to challenge for roles in the regular rotation.

American will again feature a pair of talented guards in senior Indeya Sanders and junior Jade Edwards. Sanders is the team’s top defender and produced her best season a year ago, playing a career-high 34.3 minutes per game and placing third in the league for steals per game. She also added 4.2 assists per contest. Edwards stepped up her game too, averaging a career-high 14.5 points per game and starting all 29 contests.

The question for this Eagles team is who is going to step into the scoring role of Kaitlyn Marenyi? The Third Team All-Patriot League shooter took a team-high 340 shots, scored 13.0 points per game, and finished her career as sixth all-time in three-pointers made at American.

The Eagles had trouble scoring a season ago, averaging just 57.7 points per game—good for seventh in the league. The team’s motion offense is usually one of the most effective in the league and it’s an uncertainty coming into the season. Will a shortened season and less on-court teaching time for the coaching staff impact the maturation of the offense? Who will emerge as a perimeter scoring threat?

American will look to find some answers on the offensive end as a member of the league’s South division. They join Navy and Loyola (MD) in the realignment. Last season, the Eagles won four out of five combined match-ups against the teams (including a first-round 63-53 playoff win over Navy). They’ll play Navy four times and Loyola (MD) six times. If they can solve the challenges facing the offense, the Eagles will be in good position to win the division.

BEST CASE SCENARIO: American finds a regular rotation early that includes contributions from the freshman class and goes on to claim the South division and a favorable playoff seed. The Eagles earn a quarterfinal win and finish with a winning season.

WORST CASE SCENARIO: Offensive woes continue and, in a condensed season, the freshmen are slow to develop to the college game and play a limited role this year. The Eagles struggle in their match-up against Loyola (MD) and playing them six times derails a playoff spot. The team finishes third and has its second losing season in a row.

ARMY BLACK KNIGHTS

2019-2020 record: 9-22 (4-14, 9th place)

Head Coach: Dave Magarity, 15th season

Record at Army: 257-172

Career NCAA record: 570-507 (253-259 at D1 Marist Men’s Basketball, 60-76 at D1 St. Francis (PA) Men’s Basketball)

Magarity is headed into his 38th year on the bench as a head coach, his 15th for the women’s team at West Point.  He’s guided the program to two Patriot League titles in 2013-2014 and 2015-2016.

Last season’s 9-22 record followed an 11-19 mark. It’s unusual territory for Magarity and the usually very competitive Knights. The veteran coach guided the program to six consecutive winning seasons prior to the last two campaigns and has over 1,000 games of experience on the bench.

KEY RETURNERS: (last season’s stats)
F- Lindsey Scamman 6’0, JR: 11.8 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 42.8% FG, 42.9% 3pt FG, 25.0 MPG, 26 starts (likely to miss season due to injury)

G- Alisa Fallon, 5’10, JR: 12.1 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 2.5 APG, 41.7% FG, 33.5 MPG, 31 starts, Third Team All-Patriot League

G- Sarah Bohn, 5’7, JR: 7.9 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 2.2 APG, 43.1% FG, 42.5% 3pt FG, 36.2 MPG, 31 starts

G- Hope Brown, 5’9, SO: 8.4 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 39.8% FG, 24.7 MPG, 18 starts

F- Kamryn Hall, 5’11, SO: 7.2 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.6 APG, 28.6 MPG, 20 starts (likely to miss season due to injury)

BIGGEST LOSSES: (last season’s stats)
G- Morgann Yancey, 5’8, SR: 3.8 PPG, 1.3 RPG, 28 3PT FGs made, 19.3 MPG, 13 starts (graduated)

G-Libby Tacka, 5’9, SR: 4.1 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 21.9 MPG, 1 start, 7 games played (graduated)

NEWCOMERS:

G- Kaci Helmick, 5’7, (Clarksville, TN), FR: Shooting guard who played for Spruce Creek High School in Florida for her junior and senior seasons. A three-point shooting threat and active defender. Named to All-District Fab Five team twice.

G- Melanie George, 5’5, (Fairfax, VA), FR: Attacking point guard who excels in the open court. Can pull-up in transition and has three-point range. Second Team All-State and Washington Post All-Met Honorable Mention as a senior.

G- Sam McNaughton, 5’7, (Fairfax, VA), FR: Quick point guard with a scorer’s mentality. Can create her own shot off the dribble and has three-point range. Good mid-range game. Named First Team All-Conference three times.

F- Reagan Warren, 5’10, (Rowlett, TX), FR: Small forward with length and athleticism impacts both ends of the floor. High-energy player with good hands, nice mid-range shot.

G- Lauren Lithgow, 5’9, (Manasquan, NJ), FR: Shooting guard with deep three-point range. Played for St. Rose High School. Set record for most three-pointers made in a state playoff game, sinking nine against St. John Vianney. Spent 2019-2020 at the United States Military Academy Prep School.

F- McKenzie Muse, 6’2, (Bryant, AR), FR: A forward that can stretch the floor with her three-point range. 8.2 PPG, 7.7 RPG and 35.0% from 3PT as a senior. Overcame a knee injury in her sophomore season at Bryant High School to earn All-Conference.

OUTLOOK: Army fielded one of the youngest teams in the conference last year and it showed, especially on defense. The Knights yielded a league-worst 71.0 points per game and the eighth-worst field goal percentage defense at 41.7%. Usually a very physical team, last year’s squad lacked a commitment on the defensive end. The good news? They’ll be better.

Army will compete in the North division this season with Boston University, Colgate, and Holy Cross. Although the team added another large recruiting class to an already young group, Army has experienced depth that will serve them well in the new Saturday-Sunday back-to-back format. The new additions have shooting ability and speed, so expect Army’s offense to put a little more pressure on opponent’s defenses this season.

Injuries to forwards Lindsey Scamman and Kamryn Hall will likely keep each out for the season. They are both rehabbing following off-season surgeries. This is a significant setback for the Knights. Scamman scored 11.8 points and grabbed 8.4 rebounds per game in a solid sophomore season. Hall showed promise as a freshman last season, starting 20 games and adding 7.2 points per contest.

Army will have to address ball control. They committed a whopping 572 turnovers last season—compared to 396 from opponents. It’s an extraordinary disparity and a recipe for a tough season ahead if it continues. The Knights had a league-worst 5.68 turnover margin and eclipsed the next closest team in total giveaways by nearly 100 turnovers. Expect to see Coach Magarity give a couple of freshmen an opportunity to earn time at the point guard position.

A positive for the offense is the return to the line-up of juniors Alisa Fallon and Sarah Bohn. The guards each started 31 games. Fallon led the team in with 12.9 points per game and shot a team-high 41.7% from the field. She was recognized as Third Team All-Patriot League for her efforts. Bohn was the most consistent perimeter shooting threat last year, leading the team with a 57-for-134 effort from distance, good for 42.5%.

BEST CASE SCENARIO: The Knights defense is much improved and they battle Colgate for the division’s second spot all season. The offense finds more discipline and makes marked improvement in ball control and scoring efficiency. The recruiting class emerges to make a major contribution to keep a playoff run alive until the last weekend of the regular season.

WORST CASE SCENARIO: The Knights still have the problems that most young teams do: too many turnovers and a lack of commitment on the defensive end. Early season losses mount and the team loses its grip for a push to the playoffs.

BOSTON UNIVERSITY TERRIERS

2019-2020 record: 18-12 (12-6, 2nd place)

Head Coach: Marisa Moseley, 3rd season

Record at Boston University: 33-26

Career NCAA record: 33-26

Moseley has already proven herself to be a top coach in the league. In just her third season, Boston University is a legitimate contender and looks built for the long haul. She has recruited expertly and last year managed a young roster to a second-place finish.

Moseley is a proven winner as a player and a coach. As a player, she helped BU win the America East championship in 2003. As an assistant coach at UConn for nine years, she earned five national championships and nine Final Fours.

She is the only coach to beat two-time defending champion Bucknell in each of the last two seasons. The expectations are rising on Commonwealth Avenue. Moseley is raising them.

KEY RETURNERS: (last season’s stats)
G- Katie Nelson, 5’8, SR: 12.4 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 3.6 APG, 56 made 3PT FGs, 39.4 MPG, 30 starts, Second Team All-Patriot League
F- Riley Childs, 6’0, JR: 7.1 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 39.6% FG, 28.5 MPG, 30 starts

G- Maggie Pina, 5’7, SO: 11.5 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 41.1% FG, team-high 70 made 3pt FGs, 31.7 MPG, 23 starts, Third Team All-Patriot League, Rookie of the Year

G- Sydney Johnson, 5’9, SO: 7.6 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 2.4 APG, led team with 42 steals, 30.0 MPG, 25 starts, Patriot League All-Rookie Team

F- Maren Durant, 6’3, SO: 5.4 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 55.7% FG, led team with 47 blocks, 20.7 MPG, 14 starts, Patriot League All-Rookie Team

G- Emily Esposito, 5’9, RS/JR: Transfer from Villanova. Sat out the 2019-20 season. Played in all 32 games as a redshirt freshman during the 2018-19 season. Averaged 18.1 minutes, 5.0 points, and 2.1 rebounds per game. In high school, a four-year letter winner and All-State honoree for Gorham. Earned 2017 Maine Gatorade Player of the Year, Miss Maine Basketball and Portland Press Player of the Year. Named a four-time Portland Press Herald All-Star and Bangor Daily News All-Star. Finished at Gorham's all-time leading scorer with 1,446 points and led school to two state titles.

BIGGEST LOSSES: (last season’s stats)
F- Nia Irving, 6’1, SR: 8.7 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 46.8% FG, 23.8 MPG, 18 starts (graduated)

NEWCOMERS:

G- Kelsi Mingo, 5’9, (Boca Raton, FL), FR: Led Boca Raton to three straight district championships. Won state championship as a freshman. Active player who can get to the rim and finish with contact. Length and athleticism make her a versatile wing on the defensive end.

G- Sophie Beneventine, 5’8, (Basking Ridge, NJ), FR: Point guard and four-year starter with exceptional court vision. She was a 1,000-point scorer for Ridge High School. Skyline Conference All-Raritan First Team, All-Area Second Team

OUTLOOK: BU returns four starters and adds a transfer from Villanova to a team that earned a second-place finish with a 12-6 conference record. They showed their mettle last year by splitting match-ups with Bucknell, winning at home but losing on the road 55-53. The Terriers are ready to challenge for the title.

The group is anchored by Second Team All-Patriot League point guard, Katie Nelson. If there was a toughness award in the league, Nelson would win it. She started all 30 games last year and led the NCAA in minutes played with 39.4 per game. That effort followed a sophomore campaign in which she started and played in all 29 games and led the league in minutes played with 38.3 per game.

Nelson is joined in the backcourt by sophomore Maggie Pina. The sharpshooter earned the league’s Rookie of the Year award by converting a team-high 70 three-pointers and scoring 11.5 points per game.

Coach Moseley’s first recruiting class made a statement last season. The starting line-up often featured three freshmen. Guard Sydney Johnson (25 starts) and forward Maren Durant (14 starts) joined Pina (23 starts) in leading the charge for the class. Annabelle Larnard (6 starts) also contributed but was limited due to injury.

What kind of impact will Villanova transfer Emily Esposito have for this year’s team? She could be a game-changer. Esposito, who sat out last year due to NCAA transfer rules, played in all 32 games for the Wildcats as a redshirt freshman during the 2018-19 season. She averaged 18.1 minutes, 5.0 points, and 2.1 rebounds per game.

In the paint, BU will rely on the formidable duo of junior Riley Childs and Durant. Childs brings a toughness to the interior and it pairs well with Durant’s shot-blocking ability. The junior scored 7.1 points per game and grabbed 7.7 rebounds a contest.

BEST CASE SCENARIO: Moseley builds on her young team’s league experience and positions her group for a run to the championship. Esposito makes a smooth transition into the rotation and the sophomore class improves upon its dynamic debut a season ago. BU emerges as one of the elite shooting teams in the league, wins the North division, and dethrones Bucknell for the league championship.

WORST CASE SCENARIO: In a shortened season, the team can’t find its rhythm on offense and struggles with consistency and ability to score. The team qualifies for playoffs but gets knocked off before reaching the championship game.

BUCKNELL BISON

2019-2020 record: 24-6 (16-2, 1st place)

Head Coach: Trevor Woodruff, 2nd season

Record at Bucknell: 24-6

Career NCAA record: 298-151 (159-135 at D3 Misericordia Men’s Basketball, 113-10 at D3 University of Scranton Women’s Basketball)

Woodruff met expectations in his first year in Lewisburg. Bucknell fans are accustomed to winning seasons and he delivered. Woodruff’s first foray into D-1 coaching went as planned—Bucknell finished first in the league and he was recognized by his peers as the Coach of the Year.

KEY RETURNERS: (last season’s stats)
F- Tessa Brugler, 6’1, SR: 9.8 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 50.5 FG%, 24.2 MPG, 25 starts, Third Team All-Patriot League

G- Ally Johnson, 5’10, SR: 8.4 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 63 assists, 51 3pt field goals, 32.9 MPG, 24 starts

G- Taylor O’Brien, 5’9, JR: 8.8 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 27.9 MPG, 19 starts

G- Abby Kapp, 6’0, SR: 10.9 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 40.6% 3PT, 78-192 from 3PT, 32.2 MPG, 30 starts, Second Team All-Patriot League

F-Autumn Ceppi, 6’1, SR: 4.0 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 45.2 FG%, 17.5 MPG, 5 starts, played in all 30 games

BIGGEST LOSSES: (last season’s stats)
F- Ellie Mack, 6’3, SR: 15.0 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 50.7% FG, 43.2% 3PT, 31.6 MPG, 30 starts, First Team All-Patriot League, Player of the Year (graduated)

NEWCOMERS:

G- Caroline Dingler, 5’9, (Rome, GA), FR: Point guard who excels in the uptempo game. Has shooting ability and can create her shot mid-range. Dingler was named Class 1A North All-State as a senior for the Darlington School.

F- Kaylee Reinbeau, 6’0, (Wheeling, WV) FR: Forward with length who can play in the post and on the perimeter. Will likely find her fit as a shooting forward. Averaged 18.0 PPG and 14.0 RPG as a senior for Wheeling Central Catholic.

F- Nicole Davis, 6’4, (Richmond, VA) FR: Defensive-minded post and rim protector. Has room to grow her low post offense.

G- Julie Kulesza, 5’9, (Wilmington, DE) FR: Skilled guard with court vision. A 1,000-point scorer for Conrad Schools of Science. Three-time member of All-State team, Diamond State Conference Player of the Year and a Gatorade Player of the Year.

OUTLOOK: The Bison were dominant on their way to a 16-2 conference record in 2019-20. They were the best shooting team overall, from three-point distance, and from the free throw line. On the defensive end, they led the league in points allowed per game (8th in the country) and were second overall in field goal percentage defense. They won 19 games by double-digits and finished the season on a nine-game winning streak. And they graduated just one starter from that team, Player of the Year Ellie Mack (who now plays for Oregon State as a graduate transfer).

While Mack’s size, shooting ability, and leadership will be missed, the Bison are loaded. Their talent, depth, and experience are unmatched in a league that got younger this year. They’ll be led by seniors Tessa Brugler (Third Team All-Patriot League), Autumn Ceppi, Ally Johnson, and Abby Kapp (Second Team All-Patriot League).

Expect a faster team and more transition offense this season. Both Johnson (51-for 127 40.2%) and Kapp (78-for-192 40.6%) are among the top three-point shooters in the league for a team that is very disciplined in hunting early open shots in transition and grinding out the possession if the the look isn’t there. That “first five, last five” shot-clock management takes a toll on defenses, especially given the Bison’s ability to score inside and out.

On defense, this team is deep and physical and opponents will be challenged to score against a group that has a year of experience and better understands the rotations of Woodruff’s scheme. Bucknell held conference opponents to 50 points or less nine times last season. They’ll be even better this year.

In the line-up, the point guard spot is one to watch. Junior starter Marly Walls went down with a knee injury mid-season last year and was replaced in the role by Ally Johnson. With Johnson at the point, the Bison went 13-2. With the return of Walls and reserve players ready to step in, there are options here for Woodruff.

Look for some new faces to break into the rotation too. Sophomore forward Carly Krsul saw action in 27 games last season and could see an increased role this year. Krsul shot 27-for-47 57.4% from the floor in her first year. Freshman guards Caroline Dingler and Julie Kulesza could also see minutes as well.

BEST CASE SCENARIO: Bucknell wins its fourth title in five years. The team powers right through the truncated regular-season schedule (last season’s second-place team and contender, Boston University, is not on the schedule) and conquers the league playoff format for an undefeated 19-0 season. The NCAA berth showcases the depth of talent for the best team in the league as the Bison earn a first-round NCAA win and establish Bucknell as the dynasty team in the Patriot League.

WORST CASE SCENARIO: Bucknell gets upset in the playoffs against an opponent they didn’t see in the regular season. The Bison will not play Army, Holy Cross, or Boston University. The Terriers of BU are a serious contender, having split games with the Bison last season including losing a close, 55-53 contest in Lewisburg.

COLGATE RAIDERS

2019-2020 record: 19-11 (11-7, 3rd place)

Head Coach: Bill Cleary, 5th season

Record at Colgate: 48-71

Career NCAA record: 268-225 (164-69 at D2 Bloomsburg, 56-85 at D2 Wilmington DE)

Cleary enters his fifth season after guiding Colgate to its second-most wins in program history in 2019-20. His squad posted the most wins and highest finish since 2004-2005.

The steady improvement is not new to Cleary. He earned a reputation as a program builder while at Bloomsburg where he was named PSAC East Coach of the Year three times and earned a WBCA Atlantic Region Coach of the Year honor in 2015.  

Cleary has the Raiders on the rise.

KEY RETURNERS: (last season’s stats)

G-Nia Ahart, 5’7, SR: 2.8 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 30-84 from 3pt, 21.0 MPG, 21 starts (injured, out for the season)

G- Alexa Brodie, 5’6, SO: 6.0 PPG, 1.3 RPG, 2.4 APG, 22.3 MPG, 28 starts

G- Ava Williams, 5’9, JR: 5.2 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 24.6 MPG, 30 starts

G- Taylor Langan, 5’10, JR: 6.4 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 19.4 MPG, 30 games played

G- Keelah Dixon, 5’5, SR: Missed most of last season due to injury. As a sophomore, posted 7.4 PPG, 2.0 RPG, and made 8 starts.

BIGGEST LOSSES: (last season’s stats)
G- Rachel Thompson, 5’10, SR: 16.8 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 4.8 APG, 50.7% FG, 49.7% FG, 30.1 MPG, 29 starts, team-high 74 steals, First Team All-Patriot League, Patriot League All-Defensive Team (graduated)
G- Tega Graham, 5’11, SR: 9.2 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 2.3 APG, 47.0% FG, 21.5 MPG, 7 starts (graduated)

F-Haley Greer, 5’10, SR: 8.1 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 41.2% FG, team-best 34 3PT FGs made, 61 assists, 22.9 MPG, 5 starts (graduated)

F- Abby Schubiger, 6’1, SR: 10.5 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 51.4% FG, 28. MPG, 30 starts, Third Team All-Patriot League(graduated)

NEWCOMERS:

G- Ariel Loiter, 5’5, (Singapore), FR: Combo guard with shooting range. Played for IMG Academy in Florida. Member of the Singapore National Team in 2017. Gatorade Player of the Year at IMG. Great court awareness and can play at the point or shooting guard positions.

F- Tiasia McMillan, 6’0, (Seffner, FL), FR: Posted 8.6 PPG and 5.0 RPG for Carrollwood Day School in Florida, winning the Class 4A State Championship. A 1,000-point scorer. Plays through contact and is an effective scorer in the paint. Capable of stepping out and hitting the three.

G- Morgan Frank, 5’11, (Mundelein, IL) FR: Athletic small forward/wing averaged 16.7 PPG and 6.9 RPG as a senior. All-time leading scorer with 1,557 points for Mundelein High School.

F- Lindsay Blackmore, 6’0, (Geneva, IL) FR: Athletic small forward capable of playing multiple positions. Comfortable handling the ball and can shoot it and drive it. 16.5 PPG and 7.6 RPG before a wrist injury ended her senior season.

OUTLOOK: For the second consecutive season, Cleary and his staff brought in a very good recruiting class with players that can compete for significant roles. It’s a good thing too, those new faces have some shoes to fill. And with just two seniors on the roster, this squad will fill key roles with underclassmen.

The team got younger with the exit of four seniors who each saw significant minutes. The graduation of First Team All-Patriot League guard Rachel Thompson is the most significant departure. She led the team in scoring (16.8), rebounds (7.9), assists (4.8), and steals (2.5), and her explosive athleticism made everyone around her better. She leaves Colgate as its sixth all-time leading scorer with 1,282 points.

The Raiders also lost senior guard Nia Ahart to injury. She is expected to miss the season. Ahart made 21 starts last year and her on-court presence will be missed. It’s a key loss for a young team in need of senior leadership. Classmate Keelah Dixon returns from her own injury suffered just four games into last season. Dixon made eight starts as a sophomore and averaged 7.4 points and 2.0 rebound per game.

Sophomore Alexa Brodie (28 starts) is back after a sensational freshman season that earned her a starting role and a spot on the league’s All-Rookie Team. Junior guards Ava Williams (30 starts), Taylor Langan (6.4 points per game), and Katlyn Ghavidel will also need to take on new responsibilities. Expect freshman Ariel Loiter to make a push for some time in the backcourt too.

Colgate led the Patriot League in 2019-20 in scoring offense (69.1), assists (16.8), assist-to-turnover ratio (1.2) and turnover margin (+4.3). They also shared top marks with Bucknell for best shooting percentage at 43.8% from the floor. Despite losses to graduation and injury, the Raiders should once again be a very good shooting team. But they’ll have to improve their half-court offense to win the big games this year. On defense, fans can expect to see the Raider’s match-up defense again this season.

The Raiders drew a tough schedule, playing the league’s top two teams a total of six times in the regular season. They’ll play in the North division with Army, Boston University, and Holy Cross. Games outside the division include two games against defending champion Bucknell.

To make a playoff run this season, Colgate will also need to improve their post play with both their physical presence on defense and scoring ability in the paint. Who will step into those roles? In a shortened season, freshman forwards Tiasia McMillan and Lindsay Blackmore may get their chance sooner than later.

BEST CASE SCENARIO: This young Raiders squad opens the season with a sweep of Army and takes some confidence into a showdown the following weekend against one of the league favorites, Boston University. The shortened season proves challenging for opponents to make adjustments versus the Raider’s match-up zone with less preparation time in the new back-to-back format; they capitalize with some sweeps and key splits. The team’s youth and depth become its most potent weapons and the group grabs enough wins to finish second in the North division and qualify for the league playoffs. The new faces play with growing confidence down the stretch and Colgate makes an appearance in the semi-finals.

WORST CASE SCENARIO: The squad’s outside shooting falls short of expectation and the team struggles to score in the half-court. The physical play from divisional foes Army and Boston University proves too much for the young group and they fall behind to a third-place finish. They grab the 8th seed in the playoffs as a wild card and earn an opening round game with defending champion Bucknell on the road.

HOLY CROSS CRUSADERS

2019-2020 record: 19-11 (11-7, 4th place)

Head Coach: Maureen Magarity, 1st season

Record at Holy Cross: 0-0

Career NCAA record: 146-154 (146-154 at D1 University of New Hampshire)

Holy Cross began a new era with the hiring of Maureen Magarity in April. She replaced Ann McInerney who guided the team as an interim coach for the last season and a half and spent nearly 11 seasons as assistant coach. The coaching change suggests a program reset for Athletic Director Marcus Blossom who was hired in May, 2019. Magarity’s arrival would seem to close the chapter on the lingering drama surrounding the departure of long-time head coach Bill Gibbons who led them for 34 seasons.

Magarity arrives in Worcester after 10 seasons as Head Coach for the University of New Hampshire. She helped UNH find success in a program with a reputation as a tough place to win. Her tenure produced a mix of five winning seasons and five losing ones. In 2016-17, she led UNH to a first-place regular-season finish and a 26-6 record. She collected coaching honors that season from the America East and was named Kay Yow National Coach of the Year.

She’s a familiar face in the Patriot League with a stint as assistant coach at Army from 2006-10. Army Head Coach Dave Magarity is her father.

KEY RETURNERS: (last season’s stats)

G- Avery LaBarbera, 5’6, JR: 13.7 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 3.7 APG, team-high 62 made 3pt FGs, 34.8 MPG, 29 starts, Second Team All-Patriot League

F- Oluchi Ezemma, 5’11, JR: 5.2 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 19.0 MPG, 27 games played

G- Janay Faulkner, 5’11, JR: 6.3 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 26.4 MPG, 6 starts, 18 games played

BIGGEST LOSSES: (last season’s stats)
F- Lauren Manis, 6’1: 18.6 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 45.2% FG, 32.2 MPG, 30 starts, First Team All-Patriot League (graduated)

C- Megan Swords, 6’3: 11.2 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 53.8 FG%, 26.8 MPG, 30 starts (graduated)

G- Madalyn Smith, 5’8: 6.4 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 4.8 APG, led team with 144 assists, 32.9 MPG, 30 starts (graduated)

G- Kathryn Pedi, 5’9: 4.6 PPG, 1.4 RPG, 42 3pt field goals, 22.0 MPG, 24 starts (graduated)

NEWCOMERS:

F- Janelle Allen, 5’11, (Lake in the Hills, IL) FR: The power forward averaged 12.9 PPG, 10.0 RPG and 4.0 APG for Marian Central Catholic High School. Primarily an inside scorer.

G- Bronagh Power-Cassidy, 5’10, (Dublin, IRE) FR: Crafty guard, capable of scoring with either hand. The Ireland native has played multiple seasons for the Irish National Team, competing in the FIBA European Championship in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2020. Played a post-graduate year at Class A Marianapolis Prep last season, averaging 17.0 PPG, 8.0 RPG, and 6.0 APG.

G- Cara McCormack, 5’5, (Smithtown, NY) FR: Creative point guard with three-point range. Three-time All-League selection for St. John the Baptist and Catholic League Player of the Year.

G- Steph Davis, 6’0, (Windham, NH) FR: Wing who can handle the ball like a point guard and is an effective slasher to the rim. Strong defender. High school career impacted by a back injury prior to her sophomore season at Windham High School. Finished her career playing four seasons at Proctor Academy where she was named a two-time NEPSAC All-Star.

OUTLOOK: The Crusaders will take a step back this season. The arrival of a new coach will bring fresh energy and optimism, but there is a long road ahead. The program lost four starters due to graduation including Lauren Manis, one of the most talented players in the league over the last several seasons. Manis was a First Team All-Patriot League player three times and the only person in Holy Cross history with 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds. She was drafted by the Las Vegas Aces in the third round of the WNBA draft and signed a contract this summer to play with Kangoeroes Basket Mechelen in Belgium.

The good news for Crusader fans is the presence of dynamic playmaking guard Avery LaBarbera, now a junior. The former Rookie of the Year was Second Team All-Patriot League last season after posting 13.7 points per game and improving in nearly every statistical category. She’s started 59 out of 61 career games. LaBarbera is ready to take the lead this season—and she’ll have to.

The supporting cast is uncertain. LaBarbera will be joined by junior post Madison Demski, who returns after missing last season with an injury. She averaged 2.4 points per game and 1.4 rebounds per game as a freshman. Guard Janay Faulkner returns after playing in 18 games last season but was mysteriously absent from several games a year ago. Faulkner made six starts. Forward Oluchi Ezemma is back and was a consistent presence off the bench with 5.2 points per game and 5.4 rebounds a contest. She appeared in 27 games. No other player reached 10 minutes a game last season.

The upside? The new head coach will get a good look at the four freshmen. The newcomers will have to play and find a way to contribute in games for Holy Cross to produce a winning campaign. Magarity improved UNH so she knows the territory with regard to culture-building and recruiting--and that’s a huge positive for fans on The Hill.

BEST CASE SCENARIO: LaBarbera flourishes with the ball in her hands and her presence elevates the games of her teammates, especially the four freshmen. Magarity and staff are able to establish the foundation of a successful team culture and grab a few early season upset wins to help the buy-in. Coach Magarity uses her recruiting experience in the region to land several impactful recruits and the program shows hints that the re-build will be a short road. The Crusaders avoid being one of the two teams who won’t make playoffs and grow from the experience of an opening round game in the tournament.

WORST CASE SCENARIO: The team struggles to score in the half-court and wins are hard to come by. The team finishes last in the North division and misses the playoffs. A losing season slows the growth of a positive team culture for Coach Magarity and a return to the top of the league appears a few seasons away.

LAFAYETTE LEOPARDS

2019-2020 record: 15-14 (11-7, 5th place)

Head Coach: Kia Damon-Olson, 4th season

Record at Lafayette: 34-56

Career NCAA record: 34-56

Coach Damon-Olson enters a fourth season with her best opportunity to pursue a deep playoff run. She’s established a new culture in Easton that has changed the fortunes for the Leopards. 

She brings 19 years of coaching experience at the D1 level with stops at Wisconsin-Green Bay, Fairleigh Dickinson, UMass, Penn State, and Cincinnati.

Damon-Olson continues to push Lafayette forward. A fifth-place finish last season—a three-way tie for third, lost on tie-breakers--has served notice to the league that the Leopards are a tough out now. She’ll need to get her squad up to speed early in the season to make that leap to title contender.

KEY RETURNERS: (last season’s stats)
F- Natalie Kucowski, 6’3, SR: 13.5 PPG, 12.8 RPG, 2.6 APG, 42.7% FG, 80 blocks,  31.9 MPG, 29 starts, First Team All-Patriot League, Patriot League All-Defensive Team

G- Drew Freeland, 5’8, SR: 9.5 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 2.1 APG, 41.5% FG, 39 3PTs, 31.3 MPG, 27 starts

G- Nicole Johnson, 5’6, JR: 6.3 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 1.9 APG, 30.6 MPG, 23 starts

F- Makaila Wilson, 6’0, JR: 5.4 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 21.0 MPG, 1 start, 7 games played, started every game as a freshman before an injury-shortened sophomore campaign

BIGGEST LOSSES: (last season’s stats)
F- Alexis Santarelli, 6’2, SR: 9.6 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 39.2% FG, 22.4 MPG, 28 starts (graduated)

G- Sarah Agnello, 5’10, SR: 6.8 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 41 steals, 30.2 MPG, 27 starts (graduated)

NEWCOMERS:

G- Alana Lombardi, 5’10, (Briarcliff, NY), FR: Wing with scoring punch, posted 17.0 PPG in her final year and scored over 1,500 points in her career. Missed the end of senior season due to an ankle injury. The all-time leading scorer in school history.

F- Kayla Drummond, 6’2, (Ontario, Canada), FR: Four-year starter for Crestwood Prep College in Ontario. Forward with ability to step out on the perimeter as a shooting threat.

G- Amaya Douglas, 6’0, (Coatesville, PA), FR: A four-year starter for the Westtown School, she posted 12.0 PPG and 6.0 RPG as a senior. A slashing scorer with length, athleticism and the ability to finish in the paint.

G- Makayla Andrews, 5’10, (Neptune, NJ), FR: Hard-nosed guard with a quick first step who can finish through traffic at the rim. Transferred from Neptune High School after sophomore year and helped lead St. Rose to a state championship. A developing perimeter threat. All-Shore Second Team as a senior.

F- Ashley Evans, 6’3, (Londonderry, NH), FR: Athletic forward and four-year starter for Lawrence Academy. A 1,000-point scorer who also hauled in a career 756 rebounds. First Team All-NEPSAC Class B selection three times. Plays inside and out effectively. Three-point shooting range and nice touch around the rim.

OUTLOOK: Lafayette is ready. The timing is right for this program to take a step forward. While several teams around the league lost a lot of production to graduation, the Leopards return three starters, including star, Natalie Kucowski.

The Leopards will play in the Central division of the league’s re-alignment and will compete against rival Lehigh and defending champion Bucknell four times each. It’s probably the toughest of the divisions but it will give Lafayette a very close look at the Bison and a chance for the coaching staff to find adjustments and areas to attack through an unusual format that could pay dividends in the playoffs. The program’s non-divisional games include two match-ups with Boston University, another title contender. The Leopards will be battle-tested.

Player of the Year candidate Kucowski has her team on the verge. The First Team All-Patriot League post player has already scored 1,000 points and grabbed 1,000 rebounds—the first ever in program history. She posted 19 double-doubles last season, averaging 13.5 points and 12.8 rebounds per game. She’s also the team’s first member to be named as the Defensive Player of the Year, earning that recognition as a sophomore.

To make that next step, Kucowski is going to need guard Drew Freeland (9.5 points per game) and wing Makaila Wilson to produce consistently. Wilson started every game as a freshman but missed most of last season due to injury. Her return gives the Leopards four players with starting experience. Junior guard Nicole Johnson rounds out the quartet. Johnson scored 6.3 points per game last year to go along with 37 steals and 56 assists.

The wild card for Coach Damon-Olson is her recruiting class. Can someone emerge that can provide some depth and scoring punch? The class looks promising and if the Leopards can develop their depth heading into the condensed season, this team is going to have its chance.

BEST CASE SCENARIO: The Leopards secure the second spot in the Central division and qualify for the playoffs as a resilient and mentally tough team after having played an extremely challenging schedule. Kucowski steps into the spotlight and helps deliver her team its first Patriot League championship. Damon-Olson is recognized as the Coach of the Year.

WORST CASE SCENARIO: Lafayette may have the toughest schedule in the league. In the unbalanced schedule format, the Leopards drew six games against the top two teams in the league, and they still have to play rival Lehigh four times too. What’s the worst case scenario? That their tough schedule is too tough to rack up enough wins to qualify for the playoffs. A difficult loss here or there, and the bad bounce of the ball, and Lafayette could find itself needing a win on the last weekend of regular season play to qualify for playoffs. And who is on the schedule for a back-to-back weekend of games at the end of the schedule? Bucknell, of course. It would be the worst case if Lafayette fields one of its best teams in history and they don’t qualify for the championship tournament.

LEHIGH MOUNTAIN HAWKS

2019-2020 record: 19-11 (10-8, 6th place)

Head Coach: Sue Troyan, 26th season

Record at Lehigh: 401-344

Career NCAA record: 401-344

The longest-tenured coach in the league, Troyan heads into her 26th season with an overall record of 401-344, 200-166 in the Patriot. She’s led Lehigh to three Patriot League titles and semi-final appearances in 10 out of the previous 14 seasons.

Troyan’s most recent championship came during the 2009-2010 campaign.

KEY RETURNERS: (last season’s stats)

F- Emma Grothaus, 6’2, JR: 10.2 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 40.1 FG%, 26.6 MPG, 12 starts

G- Megan Walker, 5’10, JR: 7.2 PPG, 40.4 FG%, team-high 45 made 3pt FGs, 20.1 MPG, 29 starts

G- Mary Clougherty, 6’0, SR: 7.2 PPG, 39.1 FG%, 43 made 3pt FGs, 14.7 MPG, 30 games played,

F- Mariah Sexe, 6’2, SR: 4.5 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 50.0 FG%, 14.3 MPG, 15 starts

BIGGEST LOSSES: (last season’s stats)
G- Camryn Buhr, 6’1: 12.6 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 39.4 FG%, 30.1 MPG, 29 starts, Second Team All-Patriot League (graduated)

G- Cameryn Benz, 6’3: 9.7 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 44.5 FG%, 24.3 MPG, 28 starts (graduated)

G- Hannah Hedstrom, 5’9: 4.6 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 3.6 APG, 27.3 MPG, 30 starts, (graduated)

NEWCOMERS:

G- Jamie Behar, 6’1, (Oceanside, NY) FR: Wing with perimeter shooting ability and quick release. Likely plays as a stretch forward. All-New York Honorable Mention as a senior at Lutheran High School in Long Island. Previously played for Oceanside High School. Scored over 1,700 points in her high school career.

G- Fabienne Eggenschwiler, 5’11, (Tinton Falls, NJ) FR: Quick, lefty guard with reputation as a defensive stopper. She played for the U18 Swiss National Team in 2018. Spent high school career at Red Bank Catholic.

G- Mackenzie Kramer, 5’9, (Saint Michael, MN) FR: Combo guard with three-point shooting ability who can also finish at the rim. Finished high school career with 1,749 points for Saint Michael Albertville, earning First Team All-State and All-Region recognition. Holds school season records for three-pointers made (104) and three-point percentage with 54.5%. A finalist for Miss Minnesota Basketball.

G- Maddie Albrecht, 6’0, (Billings, MT) FR: Versatile, athletic, and quick guard. Posted 8.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG and 2.5 steals per game in her senior campaign for Billings West High School. Length and agility will impact both ends of the floor.

F- Jackie Vargas, 6’3, (Maple Glen, PA) FR: Lefty post with shot-blocking ability. Finished high school career with 1,273 points, 819 rebounds, and 379 blocks for Upper Dublin. Competed for the U16 Puerto Rican National Team in 2017.

G- Maggie Brown, 6’1, (Brentwood, TN) FR: Adaptable small forward and combo guard with three-point range. Scored 1,383 points and grabbed 587 rebounds for Brentwood Academy. Named to All-State Tournament team three times.

OUTLOOK: Lehigh graduated three key starters, including Second Team All-Patriot League guard Camryn Buhr. The team’s leading scorer and rebounder, Buhr’s all-around game won’t be easily replaced. 6’3” senior post Cameryn Benz’s absence in the paint will be missed as well, but it’s the quiet steady hand and consistent presence of point guard Hannah Hedstrom that may be missed the most. Hedstrom played in 121 games in her collegiate career, started in 120 of them, and played 29.0 minutes a game. By any measure, they approach the season in a re-build mode.

The good news is that forward Emma Grothaus is ready for a breakout season. The junior finished last season playing her best basketball. In back-to-back games against Colgate on the road, Grothaus posted 16 and 18 points, respectively, to propel Lehigh into the semi-finals. She will be the number one post option this season. Can she find help from the perimeter?

Senior Mary Clougherty and junior Megan Walker will lead the effort from beyond the arc. Clougherty shot 43-of-126 for 34.1% and Walker added 45-of-119 for 37.8% from distance. They’ll likely see more minutes this year and are capable of improving from deep. But the search for a consistent deep-shooting threat continues to be an issue. Last season, Lehigh shot 31.9% (187-for-586) from the three-point line and 39.5% from the floor overall.

Lehigh was playing its best basketball at the close of the season as the Mountain Hawks put together a three-game winning streak to reach the semi-finals. Fans expecting another deep run in the playoffs means Coach Troyan will have to find some contributions from the team’s six freshmen and the two sophomores who saw limited time last year. This is a young group and there will be some growing pains. They could be looking up at both Lafayette and Bucknell in the Central division standings.

BEST CASE SCENARIO: Emma Grothaus plays like a First Team All-Patriot player and both Walker and Clougherty become more comfortable playing larger roles in the offense. Some of the younger players emerge to be consistent contributors and the Mountain Hawks make another appearance in the league semi-finals.

WORST CASE SCENARIO: Outside shooting is poor and Grothaus can’t get on track with defenses crowding her in the paint and challenging Lehigh to convert from the perimeter. In a pandemic-condensed season, the six freshmen struggle to adjust to the college level. The team finishes third in the Central division behind Bucknell and Lafayette.

LOYOLA GREYHOUNDS

2019-2020 record: 8-22 (5-13, 8th place)

Head Coach: Joe Logan, 16th season

Record at Loyola: 184-274

Career NCAA record: 184-274

Logan, a 1996 Loyola graduate, is the all-time winningest coach in program history. He’s led the Greyhounds to three conference championship games in his tenure across the MAAC and Patriot League (joined in 2013).

Logan guided the 2015-16 team to its best season as a member of the Patriot League. The Greyhounds were picked to finish seventh in the preseason Patriot League poll, but earned a three-seed for the regular-season and went on to advance to the championship game.

KEY RETURNERS: (last season’s stats)
F- Delaney Connolly, 6’0, SR: 7.0 PPG, 4.4 RPG, team-high 32 made 3PT FGs, 23.0 MPG, 27 starts

G- Laryn Edwards, 5’6, JR: 7.1 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 2.4 APG, 29.7 MPG, 25 starts

F- Isabella Therien, 6’0, SR: The former Patriot League Rookie of the Year looks to return to form. Played in just two games last season due to injury. Also missed final nine games of her sophomore season due to injury.
G-Taleah Dixon, 5’10, JR: Missed last season due to an offseason injury. As a freshman, averaged 9.7 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 1.5 APG and 26.0 MPG. Made 16 starts and was named to the Patriot League All-Rookie Team in her only collegiate season.

BIGGEST LOSSES: (last season’s stats)
G- Stephanie Karcz, 5’11, SR: 11.6 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 3.6 APG, 41.6% FG, team-highs for steals (150) and assists (104), 32.0 MPG, 29 starts, First Team All-Patriot League, Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year (graduated)

G- Alexis Gray, 5’6, SR: 9.5 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 2.4 APG, 30.8 MPG, 27 starts (graduated)

G-Hannah Niles, 5’9, SR: 5.7 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 20.9 MPG, 30 starts (graduated)

NEWCOMERS:

G- Caramina Tanedo, 5’10, (Laurel, MD), FR: DCSAA First Team All-State for powerhouse St. John’s College High School. Won three WCAC championships and twice earned WCAC honorable mention.

G- Devyne Newman, 5’8, (Herndon, VA), JR (transfer): An athletic, defensive-minded guard, Newman played two seasons for St. Joseph’s University. Appeared in 27 games last season, averaging 2.2 PPG, 1.4 RPG and 13.9 MPG. Made two starts at the point guard position.

F- Kayla Sieper, 6’0, (Tampa, FL), FR: Physical post who can stretch the floor. Three-point range shooter with ability to attack off the dribble. An effective scorer posting up down low. Won district championships as a sophomore and junior at Tampa Catholic before transferring to H.B. Plant High School for her senior season. Helped Plant with the district title.

G- Bella Steidle, 5’10, (Mullica Hill, NJ), FR: Shooting guard and consistent three-point threat. Capable off attacking off the dribble and finishing at the rim. Played first two seasons for Gloucester Catholic before transferring to Clearview High School. First Team All-Conference.

F- Charia Roberts, 6’0, (Pikesville, MD), FR: Forward who can finishover her shoulder in the paint and face up and score. Can handle the ball in transition and is an active inside presence on both ends. Division 1A All-State and IAAM All-Conference. Helped Pikesville win the Class 1A state championship as a junior.

OUTLOOK: In a wide-open South division, is there an opportunity for Coach Logan and his Greyhounds to breakthrough? There are four new recruits and a transfer from St. Joseph’s that may give some promise to a playoff run.

Last season was a challenge as injuries and tough losses mounted. But it was highlighted by a stunning win over league champion Bucknell, and a home win over perennial contender, American. The team will look different without First Team All-Patriot League player Stephanie Karcz and guard, Alexis Grey (27 starts, 9.5 points per game). But there is a core group that knows they are capable of grabbing big wins in league play. This season they’ll be in search of the consistency that has eluded them.

In divisional play, Loyola joins American and Navy. Last season, they defeated American once and swept Navy. This season they’ll face American six times, and Navy four times. If those are favorable match-ups for Coach Logan and his squad again this year, Loyola will have a great chance at a first place finish and one of the top playoff seeds.

Speedy junior guard Laryn Edwards returns to the mix after making 25 starts a season ago. She led the team in three-point field goal percentage (22-of-63 for 34.9%) and was second on the team in both assists (66) and steals (34). Forward Delaney Connolly joins Edwards as a perimeter threat with a team-high 32 made threes in 27 starts.

A return to health for senior forward Isabella Therien and junior guard Taleah Dixon will be key factors for the Greyhound’s fortunes this season. Therien, the 2017-18 Patriot League Rookie of the Year, would be a welcome addition back to the rotation. She was injured after 14 games in her sophomore season, but led the team in scoring (14.3 points per game) and was second in rebounding (5.6 per game). She just played two games last year in her junior season before injury again struck again. Dixon was a member of the All-Rookie Team before an off-season injury put her on the sidelines in 2019-20. She scored 9.7 points per game in her freshman campaign and would be an added spark on the offensive end for Loyola.

A solid four-member recruiting class joins junior guard Devyne Newman, a transfer from St. Joseph’s, to the mix. If Dixon and Therien can return to their roles on the court, the Greyhounds will have seven players to integrate. Can Coach Logan find a way to build a cohesive unit with so many new faces in a shortened season?

BEST CASE SCENARIO: If the Greyhounds can continue their success against Navy—winning four out of the last five match-ups—they’ll be in a strong position to compete for second place and a playoff spot out of the South Division. If Coach Logan has a healthy unit and guides his group into the playoffs, Loyola has a history of pulling big upsets. A big playoff win caps a comeback year for the Greyhounds.

WORST CASE SCENARIO:  Loyola struggles to shoot well again season (placed ninth in the league a year ago with 37.3%) and can’t find a consistent line-up. The freshmen are not ready to contribute and a tighter rotation gets worn down in the back-to-back games format. The Greyhounds miss the playoffs.

NAVY MIDS

2019-2020 record: 7-23 (2-16, 10th place)

Head Coach: Tim Taylor, 1st season

Record at Navy: 0-0

Career NCAA record: 0-0

Navy hired Taylor in April. He takes over for Stefanie Pemper who departed the program as its all-time winningest coach with a 214-164 record and three Patriot League titles over 12 seasons.

Taylor arrives at Annapolis with 12 seasons of experience as a D1 assistant coach with a two-year stop at Furman University (1998-2000), three stints at University of Virginia (2000-05, 2009-12, 2016-2018), and a season at the University of North Carolina (2019-20). He steps into the lead mentor role at Navy with a reputation as a very successful recruiter.

He also brings three high school head coaching experiences to his new position. He led the Woodbridge High School girls’ basketball team to a 51-21 record and three district championships from 1995 to 1998. He guided the Orange County High School boys’ program to 40-12 record from 2005-07. Taylor also coached the boys’ team in Madison County to a 43-11 mark in two seasons, reaching the Virginia State Final Four in 2009.

Taylor makes his college head coaching debut against George Mason University on November 29th.

KEY RETURNERS: (last season’s stats)
G- Sophie Gatzounas, 5’9, SR: 7.7 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 45.5% FG, 25.6 MPG, 22 starts

G- Jennifer Coleman, 5’9, JR: 9.7 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 2.7 APG, 19.5 MPG, 2 starts, 15 games played

G- Kolbi Green, 5’4, JR: 8.6 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 26.8 MPG, 9 starts, 9 games played

F- Lindsay Llewellyn, 5’10, SO: 5.1 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 22.4 MPG, 12 starts

BIGGEST LOSSES: (last season’s stats)
F- Laurel Jaunich, 6’0, SR: 4.7 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 40.5% FG, 22.6 MPG, 14 starts (graduated)

G- Mary Kate Ulasewicz, 5’5, SR: 10.5 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 3.1 APG, team-high 42 made 3pt FGs, 29.0 MPG, 30 starts, Third Team All-Patriot League (graduated)

G- Morgan Taylor, 5’7, SR: 7.6 PPG, 5.1 RPG, team-high 47 steals, 27.5 MPG, 27 starts (graduated)

F- Montana Braxton, 5’10, SR: 4.2 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 21.4 MPG, 17 starts (graduated)

NEWCOMERS:

G- Mikenzie Yim-Harvin, 5’8, (Lexington, NC), FR: A 1,000-point scorer as a point guard for Lexington High School. 18.0 PPG and 5.0 APG in her senior season. Three-time All-Davidson County and named to the 2018-2019 North Carolina All-Northwest Team. She prepped at the Naval Academy Preparatory School last year. Quick, with a scorer’s mentality.

G- Sam Schofield, 5’8, (Maumee, OH), FR: Combo guard with three-point range. All-Ohio State Division 1 Third Team and All-Northwest Ohio First Team for Anthony Wayne High School.

F- Morganne Andrews, 6’1, (Martinsburg, WV), FR: Athletic post who can run the floor and has an effective turnaround jumper. Quick feet and a leaper who can impact both ends of the floor. Class AAA Third Team All-State for Martinsburg High School. Conference Player of the Year in the EPAC.

G- Kristina Donza, 5’9, (Jackson, NJ), FR: Versatile scoring guard. Posted 26.7 PPG and 8.4 RPG as a senior for Jackson Memorial High School. Scored a program-record 1,824 career points and was named to the All-Group 4 First Team. Can score at all three levels and is effective in posting up opposing guards.

G- Sydne Watts, 6’0, (Canton, GA), FR: A 1,000-point scorer for Cherokee High School. A slashing scorer with an improving perimeter game. Missed time with an ACL injury as a junior but returned for a full senior season. Named All-State Class 7A Honorable Mention in her final year.

OUTLOOK: It’s a reset all around for the players at Navy. They are embracing a new coaching staff and preparing for conference play as part of the league’s recently created South division with Loyola (MD) and American.

The Mids need a fresh beginning. Last season was challenging on and off the court. The offense produced a league-low 52.6 points per game. The team struggled to win games and did not have the talent to win consistently in a league that was competitive from top to bottom last season. Off the court, academic eligibility issues sidelined the squad’s best player, Jennifer Coleman. And teammate Kolbi Green was dismissed from the team early in the season.

Coleman was named Third Team All-Patriot League after an impressive freshman season. She posted 13.1 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game. Last season, she played in just 15 games due to academic issues. Green made nine starts before being dismissed, putting up 8.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 2.8 steals per game. Their presence makes Navy better this season.

Juniors Coleman and Green return to the mix to join teammate Sophie Gatzounas in the line-up. The senior captain led the team in shooting (45.5%) and posted 7.7 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. Gatzounas will need to find more ways to be a scoring threat for Navy to take a step forward this season.

Can Coach Taylor’s new culture produce better results on the court this season? He’s got 12 years of D1 coaching experience to help find the answers and re-shape the philosophy of the team. Navy has a winning recent history—finishing third place or higher in eight of the last 12 seasons, and collecting three league championships over that period—so success is possible in Annapolis.

The Mids’ record over the last two campaigns is a combined 17-42, 7-29 in league action. On offense, Navy was last in the league in shooting percentage (35.7%). And on defense, their field goal percentage defense was at the bottom of the league (42.6%). Expect Navy to be improved, but Taylor’s efforts on the recruiting trail may just be the most compelling storyline this season.

BEST CASE SCENARIO: Coach Taylor’s new X’s and O’s help inspire his team to vast improvements on the offensive end. The recruiting class adds much needed size in the post and some impact guards who can score. Navy makes the most of its spot in the South division and stays in the playoff hunt until the last weekend of the season.

WORST CASE SCENARIO: The team continues its woes on the offensive end and can’t find a line-up that can consistently score. Back-to-back early losses on opening weekend to Bucknell sets an uphill path for the Mids to find a winning formula on the season.

SEASON PREDICTIONS:

The league announced its schedule for an eight-team championship tournament but to date has not detailed the format for how teams will qualify for the playoffs. According to multiple league sources, the most favored plan awards playoff spots to the top two finishers in each division and adds two wild cards with the next best record. We present our predictions based on that scenario below.

The championship game is set for March 14th.

NORTH:

1.    Boston University*

2.    Colgate*

3.    Army++

4.    Holy Cross

CENTRAL:

1.    Bucknell*

2.    Lafayette*

3.    Lehigh++

SOUTH:

1.    American*

2.    Navy*

3.    Loyola (MD)

*indicates divisional qualifier

++indicates wild card selection

PLAYOFF SEEDING:

1.    Bucknell*

2.    Boston University*

3.    American*

4.    Colgate

5.    Lafayette

6.    Lehigh

7.    Army

8.    Navy

*Division winner

2020-2021 Patriot League Champion: Bucknell University