October 26, 2021 

2021-22 Patriot League preview

Four coaching hires, a youth movement at Bucknell, and a chase for a repeat championship at Lehigh highlight a wild season ahead

This year a post-pandemic season collides with a rapidly evolving landscape of roster moves and coaching changes. Is there an upstart squad ready to surprise the usual contenders amid the uncertainty? Can new Boston University coach Melissa Graves deliver the championship that Terrier fans expect? Bucknell graduated four starters. Will a younger version of the Bison dethrone defending champion Lehigh?

A new normal has returned as the league moves away from the divisional format instituted last season in an attempt to navigate the impact COVID-19. Now it’s back to the home-and-home match-ups against each member and the same playoff structure and seeding that existed pre-pandemic.

Fans will identify the familiar rhythm as conference play begins, but it’s not all recognizable. There are plenty of new faces to be seen especially in the coaching ranks. Army, Boston University, Colgate and Loyola (MD) all hired new coaches in the off-season. While Graves inherits expectations at BU, her new colleagues step into re-building territory with an eye on the future. Who has the best chance to succeed early?

Lehigh made an impressive run to the championship last year. Can the Mountain Hawks repeat? They lost just two players from their core rotation and bring a depth of talent capable of a title run. Will head coach Sue Troyan find the right formula to keep her squad on top now that they are the favorite again?

The landscape is changing in the Patriot league but will that mean a different ending to the story? Perennial favorites Bucknell, BU and Lehigh remain the top teams, but there’s a youth movement in leadership and an influx of new talent arriving in recruiting classes across the conference. Let’s take a look at each team followed by our pre-season predictions:

AMERICAN UNIVERSITY EAGLES

Preseason Player of the Year Jade Edwards will look to lead American back into championship contention this season. Photo credit: American University Athletics

Head Coach: Megan Gebbia, 9th season

2020-2021 record: 7-4 (3rd seed in playoffs)

Record at American: 137-97

Career NCAA record: 137-97

The Eagles have one of the top staffs in the league, led by Gebbia. The two-time Patriot League Coach of the Year guided her program to championships in the 2014-15 and 2017-18 seasons.

Gebbia has served as assistant coach at Marist, Wright State, UMBC, and Towson. Her current contract has her on the sidelines at AU through the 2024-25 season.

KEY RETURNERS: (last season’s stats)

G- Jade Edwards, 5’10, SR: 17.4 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 52.0% FG, 3.0 APG, 34.3 MPG, 11 starts, First-Team All-Patriot League, All-Defensive Team

G- Emily Fisher, 5’7, SR: 11.6 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 3.4 APG, 47.9% FG, 33.3 MPG, 8 starts

F- Taylor Brown, 6’1, SR: 10.3 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 1.8 APG, 43.6% FG, 33.1 MPG, 11 starts

BIGGEST LOSSES: (last season’s stats)
G- Indeya Sanders, 5’6, SR: 
7.3 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 3.4 APG, 27% FG, 14 steals, 36.5 MPG, 11 starts, (graduated, playing as a graduate transfer for the University of Denver)

NEWCOMERS:

G- Bailey Garbee, 5’11, (Sewickley, PA), FR: Quick, athletic, combo wing whose range can extend to the three-point point line despite a slow release.  Runs the floor well and uses speed and ball handling ability to create transition opportunities. Can attack the lane and finish at the rim. Right-hand dominant with effective first-step off the dribble. Willing passer with good court vision. Played for Quaker Valley High School.

G- Jordyn Meunier, 5’10, (Longmeadow, MA), FR: Three-point shooter with ability to create her own shot on the perimeter. A 1,000-point scorer for Williston Northampton School in Massachusetts. Capable of playing point guard.

G- Riley DeRubbo, 5’8, (Washington, PA) SO: Transfer from Fordham University. Appeared in two games for the Rams. Scoring guard for Trinity High School where she was named First Team All-Section twice.

OUTLOOK: The Eagles are a mystery. Led by one of the league’s top coaches and featuring Jade Edwards, the Patriot League Preseason Player of the Year, they are a good team that could find themselves anywhere in the playoff seeding.

They won the South Division last season—and the third seed for playoffs–but didn’t earn a win against a team with a winning record (0-3) and were soundly defeated by Boston University in the playoffs. Depth was an issue for the team last season and fans can expect another tight rotation this year.

Guard Emily Fisher returns for her senior season after a strong junior campaign (11.6 ppg, 47.9% FG) and will be joined by 6’1 forward Taylor Brown as the key leaders who will need to deliver consistency for the Eagles behind Edwards. Brown (10.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg) must continue to elevate her play and provide a steady frontcourt presence in order to make a playoff push.

The recruiting class adds depth but none of the newcomers are likely to challenge for roles in the regular rotation.

Offensively, American finished in the top half of the league in points scored (64.2 ppg) and second in shooting percentage (45.2% FG). Expect the offense to continue to be elite as the top four scorers return to the mix.

There are reasons for optimism with the dynamic play of Edwards and a full slate of practices for growing their offense this season. But the graduation of guard Indeya Sanders will be difficult to replace on the defensive end and they may not have the depth to keep up with the league favorites.

BEST CASE SCENARIO: American finishes in the top half of the league and earns a home game for playoffs, advancing to the semi-finals. Edwards carries her team to the brink of a championship.

WORST CASE SCENARIO: A full season wears down a limited rotation of players and Edwards has to carry too much of the load to succeed. American finds itself on the road for the playoffs and eliminated in the first round.

ARMY BLACK KNIGHTS

Senior Alisa Fallon was named Third-Team All-Patriot League last season. Photo credit: Army West Point Athletic Communications

2020-2021 record: 9-11 (6th seed in playoffs)

Head Coach: Missy Traversi, 1st season

Record at Army: 0-0

Career NCAA record: 112-59 (83-37 at D2 Adelphi University, 29-22 at D3 Wheelock College)

Traversi just completed her fifth year as the head coach at Division II Adelphi University. She coached the Panthers to an 83-37 (.692) overall record, an NE-10 tournament championship in 2017 and two NCAA Division II Tournament appearances.

Prior to landing at Adelphi, she spent two seasons (2014-16) as the head coach at Division III Wheelock College in Boston. Traversi went 29-22.

KEY RETURNERS: (last season’s stats)

G- Sarah Bohn, 5’7, SR: 7.1 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 2.9 APG, 38.5% FG, 33.7 MPG, 17 starts

G- Alisa Fallon, 5’10, SR: 11.8 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 3.4 APG, 39.9% FG, 34.2 MPG, 20 starts, Third-Team All-Patriot League

F- Sabria Hunter, 6’1, JR: 7.6 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 40.7% FG, 18.1 MPG, 1 start

G- Lauren Lithgow, 5’9, SO: 8.1 PPG, 34.4% 3PT FG, 28 3PT FGs made, 14 starts, 25.6 MPG

F- Kate Murray 6’0, SR: 9.6 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 34.8% FG, 26.4 MPG, 13 starts

F- Lindsey Scamman 6’0, SR: 11.8 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 42.8% FG, 42.9% 3pt FG, 25.0 MPG, 26 starts (missed 2020-21 season due to injury; statistics are from 2019-20 season)

BIGGEST LOSSES: (last season’s stats)
F- Liz Layne, 6’0, SR: 
1.8 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 10.2 MPG, 4 starts (graduated)

F-Jessica Rawls, 6’0, SR: 1.2 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 6.9 MPG, 1 start (graduated)

NEWCOMERS:

G- Vasana Kearney, 5’8, (Grand Prarie, TX), FR: Versatile guard who played for South Grand Prarie High School. Physical defender capable of guarding as a small forward. Effective perimeter shooter.

G- Trinity Hardy, 5’8, (Lakeland, FL), FR: Attacking guard who excels in the open court. Quick and tough, can finish at the rim in traffic and is an impact defender. Played for Winter Haven High School.

G- Ashlyn Bigelow, 5’9, (Kasson, MN), FR: Quick point guard with a scorer’s mentality. Played for Kasson-Mantorville High School.

OUTLOOK: The arrival of coach Missy Traversi marks a new era for the Black Knights. She replaces long-time coach Dave Magarity who led Army for 15 seasons. Big changes in tempo and defensive style of play are on the way.

Traversi favors a fast pace and relentless defensive pressure. That’s a style that will bring a different feel to the Army program, especially on defense.

Last season, injuries to forwards Lindsey Scamman and Kamryn Hall were a setback for the Knights, but this year’s squad has the depth to find success. They graduated just two players and neither were a part of the regular rotation. The addition of an athletic recruiting class makes Army a playoff threat.  Keep your eyes on freshman Trinity Hardy.

Senior experience counts and Army has it with guards Alisa Fallon (11.8 ppg, Third-Team All-Patriot League) and Sarah Bohn (7.1 ppg and 2.1 rpg). The physical and mental toughness of the duo will be key in the new system.

The Black Knights’ defense will be a focus for the new coaching staff, but improving perimeter shooting will be vital to compete in the top half of the league. Army shot just 38.8% from the floor last season—good for sixth in the league. If Traversi can create more pace of play, teams may have a more difficult time tracking and contesting shooters. Sophomore shooting guard Lauren Lithgow may get the chance to put her team-best 34.4% from three-point range on display. The All-Rookie Team honoree converted 22-of-64 from deep and was third on the team with 8.1 points per game.

There will be growing pains with the new system but expect the Black Knights to grab some unexpected wins and make some waves come playoff time.

BEST CASE SCENARIO: Army embraces Traversi’s new system and the team’s pace of play and defensive pressure earns it a spot in the top half of the league. Their physicality suits a playoff run and the group grabs a post-season win and surprising spot in the semi-finals.

WORST CASE SCENARIO: The culture change to the team’s defensive philosophy doesn’t match the enthusiasm to push and shoot on the offensive end and the Black Knights fail to win shoot-outs consistently enough to earn a playoff seed in the top half of the league.

BOSTON UNIVERSITY TERRIERS

New Terrier head coach Melissa Graves leads a talented team with championship goals. Photo credit: Wake Forest Athletics

2020-2021 record: 12-3 (2nd seed in playoffs)

Head Coach: Melissa Graves, 1st season

Record at Boston University: 0-0

Career NCAA record: 0-0

Graves arrives from an assistant coach role at Wake Forest for her first college head coaching job. She is making her second appearance in the Patriot league having spent two seasons (2013-15) as an assistant coach at Colgate. The Raiders went 8-22 and 9-22 in those two campaigns.

Last year, Graves helped guide the Demon Deacons to their first NCAA Tournament appearance since the 1987-88 season. She played four years at Notre Dame under Hall of Fame coach—and former Lehigh head coach—Muffet McGraw. She replaces Marisa Moseley who was head coach for three seasons before departing for the same role at the University of Wisconsin.

KEY RETURNERS: (last season’s stats)

F- Riley Childs, 6’0, SR: 7.2 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 50.0% FG, 23.4 MPG, 11 starts

G- Maggie Pina, 5’7, JR: 9.3 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 32.5% FG, team-high 29 made 3pt FGs, 30.8 MPG, 15 starts

G- Sydney Johnson, 5’9, JR: 11.9 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 3.6 APG, led team with 27 steals, 30.2 MPG, 14 starts, Second-Team All-Patriot League

F- Maren Durant, 6’3, JR: 9.5 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 66.7% FG, led team with 26 blocks, 25.6 MPG, 14 starts, Third-Team All-Patriot League

G- Emily Esposito, 5’9, RS/SR: 7.6 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 41.1% FG, 26.2 MPG, 4 starts

BIGGEST LOSSES: (last season’s stats)
G- Katie Nelson, 5’8, SR: 12.0 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 4.3 APG, 28 made 3PT FGs, 47.9% FG, 35.8 MPG, 15 starts, First-Team All-Patriot League

NEWCOMERS:

G- Corrine Washington, 5’11, (Sewickley, PA), FR: Athletic wing who was a four-year starter at Quaker Valley. A first team all-section, third team all-state as a junior and senior in Class 4A. Length and athleticism make her a versatile two-way player and impact recruit.

C- Caitlin Weimar, 6’4, (Cortlandt Manor, NY), SO: Transfer from Marist where she started 19 games. Defensive presence and rim protector. Had a team-high 38 blocks for Marist as a freshman. Named MAAC Co-Rookie of the Year, MAAC All-Rookie Team, and MAAC All-Championship Team. Recorded over 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in five varsity seasons at Hendrick Hudson High School.

G- Alex Giannaros, 5’5, (Brockton, MA), FR: 1,000-point scorer for Tabor Academy. Good court vision, vocal defender, can play both guard positions.

G- Lauren Davenport, 5’11, (Idaho Falls, ID), FR: Athletic shooting guard with excellent range. Capable of attacking the rim when run off the three-point line. All-conference and all-area player for Thunder Ridge High School.

OUTLOOK: Head coach Melissa Graves arrives on Commonwealth Avenue to a team with championships aspirations—and expectations.

Last season, the Terriers fell to Lehigh in the conference championship on their home court, 64-54. Do they have what it takes to make another run? Absolutely.

Boston University is one of the favorites to win the title this season. They return five of their top six scorers and have added MAAC Rookie of the Year, Caitlin Weimar, to the mix via transfer. The former Marist post joins Maren Durant (9.5 ppg, 7.7 rpg) in the frontcourt and gives the Terriers the most imposing tandem of post defenders in the league.

If last season’s super-sub Emily Esposito moves back into the starting line-up, the first unit will field the most starting experience in the league. The team lost its primary ballhandler Katie Nelson to graduation, and coach Graves will have to find the solution at the point. Nelson was one of the top players in the league, a First-Team All-Patriot League selection, and the most efficient point guard over the last two seasons.

If losing Nelson means junior Sydney Johnson has the ball in her hands more often, then Terrier fans won’t be disappointed. Johnson is poised for a break-out year. Last season, she was the group’s second-leading scorer with 11.9 points per game and shot 43.7% from the floor. If Graves grows her team with a little more freedom on the offensive end, Johnson will be one of the top scorers in the league.

There’s a learning curve for any first-time head coach and they’ll be some lessons to learn as the season unfolds. Stepping into a winning culture is a challenge for any leader, but Graves and her staff have the players to win the championship.

BEST CASE SCENARIO: Last year’s loss to Lehigh in the championship motivates the team all season and the Terriers fight their way to the top-seed for the championship tournament. Weimar and Durant make life tough at the rim for opponents and Johnson becomes one of the most explosive playmakers in the league. Graves leads her group to BU’s first Patriot League championship.

WORST CASE SCENARIO: The Terriers struggle to find a solution at the point guard position and another season of poor three-point shooting (30.4% for seventh in the league last year) results in a tougher path in the playoffs. The team falls short of its championship goal.

BUCKNELL BISON

Senior Taylor O’Brien aims to lead a younnger Bison team back to the championship game. Photo credit: Marc Hagemeier

2020-2021 record: 9-1 (1st seed in playoffs)

Head Coach: Trevor Woodruff, 2nd season

Record at Bucknell: 33-7

Career NCAA record: 307-152 (159-135 at D3 Misericordia Men’s Basketball, 113-10 at D3 University of Scranton Women’s Basketball)

Woodruff has been named the league’s Coach of the Year in both of his seasons as head coach. He brought in one of the top recruiting classes in the league this season.

KEY RETURNERS: (last season’s stats)
G- Taylor O’Brien, 5’9, SR:
16.3 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 47.4% FG, 87.1% FT, 28.1 MPG, 10 starts, First-Team All-Patriot League

BIGGEST LOSSES: (last season’s stats)
F- Tessa Brugler, 6’1, SR:
13.2 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 52.8% FG, 28.1 MPG, 10 starts, First-Team All-Patriot League, All-Defensive Team (graduated, playing as a graduate transfer for Drexel)
G- Ally Johnson, 5’10, SR: 8.4 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 2.6 APG, 37.8% 3PT FG, 30.8 MPG, 10 starts (graduated)

G- Abby Kapp, 6’0, SR: 11.3 PPG, 4.2 RPG, team-high 20 three-pointers, 30.6 MPG, 10 starts, Third-Team All-Patriot League (graduated)

F-Autumn Ceppi, 6’1, SR: 8.4 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 3.8 APG, 46.6% FG, 27.2 MPG, 10 starts, All-Defensive Team (graduated, playing as a graduate transfer for D2 Bentley)

NEWCOMERS:

G- Remi Sisselman, 6’0, (Long Island, NY), FR: Elite shooting guard and 1,000-point scorer for Half Hollow Hills East High School. Named Long Island Player of the Year and led her team to two state championships. A tough cover who can score inside and out. An impact scorer with the versatility to create match-up problems.

G- Cecelia Collins, 6’0, (Scranton, PA), FR: Shooting guard/small forward and 1,000-point scorer who played four seasons for Scranton Prep. Named 2021 First Team All-State and 2020 Second Team All-State in Class 4A.

F- Isabella King, 6’0, (Bedford, NH), FR: Lefty three-point shooter. Named New Hampshire Gatorade Player of the Year. Led Bedford High School to a D1 State Championship. Twice named First-team All-State. Averaged 20.8 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 2.6 assists in her senior season.

OUTLOOK: Bucknell has finished in first place in each of the last three regular seasons and four of the last five. But there’s a youth movement in Lewisburg. The Bison graduated four senior starters from last year’s team and coach Woodruff’s squad gets a whole lot younger in the rotation. Is this a chance for the rest of the league to put them in rearview mirror? Not quite. They’re still really good.

First-Team All-Patriot team member Taylor O’Brien is the lone starter returning but she’s part of nine returning players from those successful teams. The Bison also landed an excellent recruiting class that will have Bucknell right where they usually are in the end—fighting for a championship.

O’Brien is a Player of the Year candidate and one of the most efficient players in the league. She’ll need to be great early as the younger players gain confidence and rhythm. She led the team in scoring (16.3 ppg) and was second in rebounding (6.1 rpg) last season and those numbers are sure to rise if the Bison need to lean on her talents in the early going.

Another returning player to watch is forward Carly Krsul. Woodruff prefers to facilitate his offense through the post and the line-up’s two graduated forwards—Tessa Brugler and Autumn Ceppi—combined for 55 assists in the 10-game season. Krsul (6.5 ppg and 4.8 rpg) will step into one of those roles and her production will be a key to the team’s fortunes.

Expect Bucknell’s trio of freshmen to see the floor this year and make important contributions. Woodruff brought in some terrific perimeter shooting talent and they’ll be making an impact this season. Keep an eye on three-point shooter, Remi Sisselman.

BEST CASE SCENARIO: Bucknell earns a top-two seed and makes another trip to the conference championship game. The Bison continue to be one of the top shooting teams in the league and they turn their smaller line-up into a strength by spreading teams out on offense and employing an aggressive switching style on defense. The Bison bring the trophy back to Lewisburg.

WORST CASE SCENARIO: Too many new pieces to the puzzle slow down the growth and development of a team with championship goals. The defense in the post fails to evolve quickly enough to make up for the absence of graduated forwards and All-Defensive Team honorees, Brugler and Ceppi. They get eliminated in the semi-finals for the second consecutive year.

COLGATE RAIDERS

Point guard Alexa Brodie leads a Colgate team looking to bounce back from a 1-8 season. Photo credit: Colgate Athletic Communications

2020-2021 record: 1-8 (season suspended due to player injuries)

Head Coach: Ganiyat Adeduntan, 1st season

Record at Colgate: 0-0

Career NCAA record: 8-43 (at D3 Wheelock College)

Adeduntan arrives from George Washington University after four years as the program’s recruiting coordinator. She helped the Colonials win an Atlantic-10 Conference championship in 2017-18.
 
Prior to George Washington, she spent three seasons as an assistant coach at Northeastern—her second stretch for the Huskies where she got her start on staff in college basketball as an administrative assistant from 2010-12.

Between stints at Northeastern, Adeduntan gained college head coaching experience at the Division III level for Wheelock College in Boston from 2012-14.

Adeduntan had a successful playing career as a 1,000-point scorer at Florida State under head coach Sue Semrau.

KEY RETURNERS: (last season’s stats)
G- Alexa Brodie, 5’6, JR: 13.0 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 3.4 APG, 31.7 MPG, 7 starts

G- Taylor Langan, 5’10, SR: Missed last season due to injury. Stats from the previous season: 6.4 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 19.4 MPG, 30 games played

F- Lindsay Blackmore, 6’0, SO: 8.4 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 42.5% FG, 26.2 MPG, 1 start

BIGGEST LOSSES: (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 (graduated, playing as a graduate transfer for Northern Illinois)

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 (graduated, playing as a graduate transfer for UMBC)

G- Ava Williams, 5’9, SR: 5.2 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 24.6 MPG, 30 starts (transfer who will play for Weber State)

NEWCOMERS:

F- Sophia Diehl, 6’1, (Westminster, MD), FR: Effective scorer in the mid-range with quick release. Has three-point range and attacks the basket successfully in traffic if overplayed. Averaged 18.8 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.2 steals and 1.6 blocks while shooting 44.8 percent from field in her senior season. Finished high school career with 930 points.

G- Taylor Golembiewski, 5’8, (Columbia, CT) FR: Combo guard who can impact both ends of the floor. Good ball handler is capable of leading at the point guard position. Averaged 17.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 4.3 steals for her high school career.

G- Morgan McMahon, 5’10, (Hagerstown, MD), FR: Point guard with a scorer’s mentality. Physically tough and capable of attacking and finishing at the rim. Averaged 12.8 points and 6.0 assists and 2.8 steals for career at the Saint James School.

OUTLOOK: Coach Adeduntan steps into a program in transition. Injuries forced the suspension of last season at a 1-8 record and a change in coaching leadership followed. The reset after the down season gives the staff a chance to build a new culture without the burden of expectation.

Adeduntan isn’t starting from scratch in terms of building the roster. The program is a year removed from a 19-win season. Although the Raiders were picked last in the league’s 2021 pre-season poll, there’s more talent on the roster than last year’s result may suggest.

The team’s top scorer and point guard, junior Alexa Brodie, leads the way. The former All-Rookie Team member was tenth in the league in scoring last season with 13.0 points per game. Forwards Lindsay Blackmore (8.4 ppg and 4.8 rpg) and Tiasia McMillan (5.0 ppg and 3.4 rpg) anchor the front-court while senior guard Taylor Langan returns from injury.

Taylor Golembiewski, who was originally committed to play for coach Adeduntan at George Washington, heads the recruiting class.

The key for this new version of the Raiders will be defensive identity. The team previously ran a match-up zone but struggled last year due to limited practice time from COVID-19 and player absences due to injury. If Adeduntan can implement a successful defensive philosophy and get team buy-in, these Raiders may just surprise a few teams on the way to the playoffs.

BEST CASE SCENARIO: This new version of the Raiders takes advantage of a friendly non-conference schedule to grab some early-season confidence wins and opens up conference play with a win at home versus a Lafayette team that is also in reset mode. The culture grows successfully and the team carries its momentum to a top eight finish.

WORST CASE SCENARIO: The squad’s new defensive scheme never comes together and the Raiders have trouble finding wins in conference play. The new energy and optimism that comes with a new coach diminishes with mounting losses and the culture takes a step back.

HOLY CROSS CRUSADERS

Rookie of the Year Bronagh Power-Cassidy. Photo credit: Mark Seliger

2020-2021 record: 7-8 (5th seed in playoffs)

Head Coach: Maureen Magarity, 2nd season

Record at Holy Cross: 7-8

Career NCAA record: 153-162 (146-154 at D1 University of New Hampshire)

Magarity has steadied the ship at Holy Cross and the veteran coach appears to be successfully re-building a team culture impacted by multiple coaching changes in the last few years. Magarity previously led the University of New Hampshire for 10 seasons. 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.

KEY RETURNERS: (last season’s stats)
G- Avery LaBarbera, 5’6, SR: 
13.9 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 3.4 APG, team-high 32 made 3PT FGs, 34.3 MPG, 15 starts, Second Team All-Patriot League, All-Defensive Team

F- Oluchi Ezemma, 5’11, SR: 9.0 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 23.7 MPG, 15 starts

G- Bronagh Power-Cassidy, 5’10, SO: 11.5 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 41.0% FG, 27.9 MPG, 15 starts, Patriot League Rookie of the Year

BIGGEST LOSSES (last season’s stats)
C- Shannon Murphy, 6’1, SR: 0.3 PPG, 1.2 RPG, 6.9 MPG, 1 start (graduated)

NEWCOMERS:

G- Grace Munt, 5’11, (Fair Haven, NJ) FR: Versatile wing who can score inside. Impact defender whose length and athleticism can be disruptive. Missed junior season due to shoulder injuries. Scored 11.9 points per game for Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School as a senior; named First Team All-Shore.

G- Lauren Huber, 5’10, (Libertyville, IL) FR: Combo guard and 1,000-point scorer capable of playing point. Aggressive defender with attacking mindset in the open court. Named to Illinois Class 4A honorable mention All-State team as a senior. Averaged 13.6 points, 7.9 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.3 steals for her senior season.

F- Lindsay Berger, 6’2, (Orefield, PA) FR: Capable inside scorer who can stretch the defense with her perimeter shooting ability. Runs the floor well in transition and can handle the ball. Second Team All-State, Class 6A. Also named Lehigh Valley Live All-Area First Team, Morning Call All-Star Team, MVP of Lehigh County and Eastern Pennsylvania Conference First Team.

OUTLOOK: The Crusaders are on the right track. Coach Magarity has had a season to build the core values of her team culture and get her squad’s on-court philosophies in place. Last year’s debut season at 7-8 wasn’t shiny, but it was a step in the right direction.

Why is Holy Cross on track for success? Let’s take a closer look at last year’s record. Seven out of the team’s eight losses came against Lehigh (eventual champion) or Boston University (runner-up, first-place regular season finish). And the Crusaders did notch a win against those Terriers on the road.  

The Crusaders are led by senior playmaker Avery LaBarbera, named to this year’s preseason All-Patriot League Team. She posted 13.9 points per game and blossomed defensively under Magarity’s aggressive schemes—earning an All-Defensive Team nod.

LaBarbera is joined by Rookie of the Year Bronagh Power-Cassidy and senior forward Oluchi Ezemma. Power-Cassidy started all 15 games in her debut season and notched 11.5 points per game while shooting 41.0% from the floor. Senior Ezemma had her best season (9.0 ppg and 7.7 rpg) and established herself as a vital post presence.

Magarity’s first recruiting class will make an impact this season. Last year, she started two freshmen (Power-Cassidy for 15 games and Cara McCormack for 14 games) and fans can expect that they will again see multiple freshmen in the rotation. Keep an eye on Lauren Huber out of Illinois.

BEST CASE SCENARIO: The new faces make an immediate contribution, the roster stays healthy, and the Crusaders make a push for a top-four seed in the tournament. A home playoff win and an appearance in the semi-finals would be a winning year for a program that is slowly climbing back on the path to title contention.

WORST CASE SCENARIO: Shooting woes continue this season (7th in the league overall at 38.4% and 7th in three-point shooting at 30.4% last year) and it keeps the team from gaining traction in the top half of the league. The team falls in its quarterfinal playoff match-up for the second consecutive year.

LAFAYETTE LEOPARDS

Senior Jess Booth leads Lafayette in the backcourt. Photo credit: Rick Smith/Lafayette Athletic Communications

2020-2021 record: 5-8 (7th seed in playoffs)

Head Coach: Kia Damon-Olson, 5th season

Record at Lafayette: 39-64

Career NCAA record: 39-64

Coach Damon-Olson enters her fifth season in Easton and has improved the culture at Lafayette. She has 19 years of assistant coaching experience at the D1 level with stops at Wisconsin-Green Bay, Fairleigh Dickinson, UMass, Penn State, and Cincinnati.

Damon-Olson has developed the Leopards into a consistently competitive team and improved the program’s recruiting reach.

KEY RETURNERS: (last season’s stats)
G- Nicole Johnson, 5’6, SR:
4.3 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 2.8 APG, 32.0 MPG, 13 starts

F- Makaila Wilson, 6’0, SR: 3.8 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 13.9 MPG, 5 starts

F- Naomi Ganpo, 6’3, SR: 6.3 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 57.4% FG, 16.8 MPG, 8 starts

G- Jess Booth, 5’8, JR: 9.0 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 3.0 APG, 40.0% FG, 27.1 MPG, 11 starts

BIGGEST LOSSES: (last season’s stats)

F- Natalie Kucowski, 6’3, SR: 17.8 PPG, 13.3 RPG, 3.7 APG, 50.3% FG, 80 blocks,  36.2 MPG, 13 starts, First Team All-Patriot League, Player of the Year, Patriot League All-Defensive Team (graduated)

G- Drew Freeland, 5’8, SR: 9.2 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 2.5 APG, 44.1% FG, team-high 21 3PTs, 34.6 MPG, 13 starts (graduated)

NEWCOMERS:

G- Abby Antognoli, 5’7, (Bay Head, NJ), FR: Speedy point guard with consistent pull-up jumper and three-point range. A 1,000-point scorer for St. Rose High School, she averaged 21.8 points per game her senior season.

G- Kylie Favours, 5’9, (Old Bridge, NJ), FR: Shooting guard with three-point range. Active and quick on the defensive end. Played for Rutgers Prep.

G- Claire Gallagher, 5’11, (Lake Forest Park, WA), FR: Combo guard more naturally suited to the shooting guard position. Originally verballed to Brown University.

G/F- Taliyah Medina, 6’0, (Bethlehem, PA), SO: Transfer from Villanova. Small forward who excels in transition and with mid-range shooting. Posted 2.3 points and 1.3 rebounds per game while shooting 31.3% from the field for the Wildcats. Played for her father at Bethlehem Catholic High School where she was a 1,000-point scorer. 2020 Class 4A Pennsylvania State Player of the Year. Earned first team All-State honors as a sophomore and senior. Missed her junior season with an ACL injury.

C- Aniya Matthews, 6’3, (York, PA), SO: Transfer from Temple. Sat out her first season with the Owls due to an Achilles tendon injury. Impact defensive presence in the paint. Played for Dallastown High School.

OUTLOOK: Lafayette is about to find out what life is like without the talents of last year’s Player of the Year, Natalie Kucowski. The versatile forward totaled 1,415 career points and 1,197 career rebounds and was also Defensive Player of the Year. That presence and production won’t be easily replaced. So what lies ahead for the Leopards?

It’s an opportunity to show that the culture has been established and a competitive team is here to stay under Damon-Olson’s leadership. Good programs don’t rise or fall with the arrival or departure of a great player; core team values and a next up mentality keep a program on track. Is Lafayette ready to demonstrate that they can be consistently competitive?

There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic. Despite playing one of the league’s most challenging schedules last year, the Leopards made the playoffs and nearly upset Boston University on the road in the quarterfinals, falling 74-68. That season also included a 10-point win over eventual league champion Lehigh in the regular season.  The team knows what it takes—and it graduated just three players. The Leopards must capitalize on that experience and grow this season.

One of those key returning players is 6’3 forward Naomi Ganpo (6.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 8 starts). Expect to see Ganpo step into the lead frontcourt spot along with Temple transfer, 6’3 Aniya Matthews.

Junior guard Jess Booth brings a veteran presence as well. Booth (9.0 ppg, 3.0 apg, 11 starts) is the top returning scorer and will need to be a steadying force in the backcourt. Replacing departing senior shooting guard Drew Freeland (9.2 ppg and 44.7% from three-point range) will likely open the door for some of the team’s new faces to shine. Watch for guards Abby Antognoli and Claire Gallagher to make an impression as the season progresses.

In the league’s preseason poll, the Leopards were picked eighth. They’ll be a bit better than that despite Kucowski’s departure–and it’s time for them to reject that their season should be framed by low expectations; if they don’t, they’ll most certainly meet them.

BEST CASE SCENARIO: The Leopards get off to a fast start in conference play and build enough confidence to grab a win or two against the top of the league. The two transfers (Matthews from Temple, Medina from Villanova) fit into the rotation and contribute right away. New recruits make a splash and the newfound depth in Easton propels Lafayette into a five- or six-seed for playoffs.

WORST CASE SCENARIO: The team can’t find its go-to player in the absence of Kucowski and no one steps into the role of leading the group in the key moments of games. The Leopards lose some heartbreakers and can’t find their way out of the bottom of the standings. A daunting home stretch of four games to be played against the league’s top four preseason picks closes the door on the season’s hopes.

LEHIGH MOUNTAIN HAWKS

Junior Frannie Hottinger leads the charge for the defending champion Lehigh Mountain Hawks. Photo credit: Hannahally Photography

2020-2021 record: 10-6 (4th seed in playoffs)

Head Coach: Sue Troyan, 27th season

Record at Lehigh: 411-350

Career NCAA record: 411-350

The longest-tenured coach in the league, Troyan heads into her 27th season and has led Lehigh to four Patriot League titles (1997, 2009, 2010, and 2021).

Troyan’s teams have advanced to the semi-finals in 11 out of the last 15 seasons.

KEY RETURNERS: (last season’s stats)

F- Emma Grothaus, 6’2, SR: 11.3 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 48.5% FG, 28.1 MPG, 8 starts

G- Megan Walker, 5’10, SR: 7.6 PPG, 34.2% FG, 24 made 3pt FGs, 25.1 MPG, 15 starts

G- Clair Steele, 5’5, SR: 6.6 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 32.9% FG, 31.4 MPG, 16 starts

F- Frannie Hottinger, 6’0, JR: 14.2 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 43.9% FG, 26.4 MPG, 15 starts

G- Mackenzie Kramer, 5’9, SO: 8.7 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 36.2% FG, 22.9 MPG, 2 starts

BIGGEST LOSSES: (last season’s stats)

G- Mary Clougherty, 6’0, SR: 11.9 PPG, 34.3% FG, 38 made 3pt FGs, 27.6 MPG, 9 starts, (graduated, playing as a graduate transfer for Georgetown University)

F- Mariah Sexe, 6’2, SR: 5.7 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 48.7% FG, 20.3 MPG, 15 starts (graduated)

NEWCOMERS:

G- Ella Stemmer, 5’10, (Ann Arbor, MI) FR: Scoring guard proficient from the three-point line and as an attacker at the rim. A 1,000-point scorer and First Team All-State selection for Saline High School. Four-time All-Conference selection. Can create off the dribble and has good court vision.

G- Kaylee Van Eps, 6’0, (Chaska, MN) FR: Versatile wing that can defend multiple positions. 1,000-point scorer and two-time Class 4A All-State Honorable Mention for Chaska High School. Active defender named a four-time Metro West Defensive Team selection. Led team to Minnesota Class 4A state championship as a senior.

F- Meghan O’Brien, 6’1, (Centreville, VA) FR: Post player who brings inside-out skills. A 1,000-point scorer and two-time All-State selection for Centreville High School who averaged 15.6 ppg, 10.9 rpg for her career. Solid post defender who had 220 blocks in high school.

OUTLOOK: Lehigh graduated two starters, including the team’s second-leading scorer Mary Clougherty (11.9 ppg), but the Mountain Hawks are still deep and talented and one of the favorites in the title chase.

Coach Troyan and staff took a ‘less is more’ approach to the season last year and simplified the offensive and defensive concepts in anticipation of COVID-19 interruptions. The program’s fourth championship is proof the plan worked. How will a return to a full practice and game schedule impact Lehigh this year?

Well, it won’t change their philosophy about taking three-pointers. Last season, they took 28.6 threes per game and converted at a 34.2% clip. This year’s group is a better shooting team and the recruiting class arrives with a trio of scorers, too. Fans can expect freshman Ella Stemmer to add to the three-point totals.

Junior small forward Frannie Hottinger returns to the mix as a pick for the Preseason All-Patriot team after leading Lehigh in scoring at 14.2 points per game. She joins seniors Clair Steele (4.4 apg) and Emma Grothaus (11.3 ppg and 6.8 rpg) as key pieces to the squad’s championship puzzle.

Grothaus is one of the most underrated players in the league, deceivingly tough and efficient. The Patriot League Tournament MVP last year, she’s on the edge of her best season. Steele may just be the best floor general in the conference and Lehigh is a more poised team with her on the floor.

Will the Mountain Hawks be cutting down the nets again next March? They have the depth and balance of talent to do it, and Lehigh is picked to finish first in the league’s preseason poll.

BEST CASE SCENARIO: Emma Grothaus and Frannie Hottinger play like First Team All-Patriot players and the league can’t keep up the high-powered offense and tempo of Lehigh. The three freshmen add scoring depth and make important contributions down the stretch. Lehigh defends its championship.

WORST CASE SCENARIO: The burden of expectation derails a championship run. The team has a winning season but never gets comfortable with being the favorite and finds the defense of a championship much more difficult than the pursuit of one.

LOYOLA GREYHOUNDS

Junior Emily McAteer looks to lead a re-build for Loyola (MD). Photo credit: Larry French/Loyola Athletic Communications

2020-2021 record: 0-13 (8th seed in playoffs)

Head Coach: Danielle O’Banion, 1st season

Record at Loyola: 0-0

Career NCAA record: 21-98

O’Banion comes to the Greyhounds with 19 years of coaching experience at the Division 1 level with assistant coaching stops at Minnesota, Memphis, Kent State and Harvard.  She brings head coaching experience from a four-year run at Kent State from 2012-16. Her teams went 21-98 during her tenure.

As an assistant coach, O’Banion has helped her teams make five NCAA tournament appearances and one run to the Final Four.
 
She played four years for Boston College from 1997-2001 when the Eagles played in the Big East conference. She helped Boston College to its first two NCAA tournament appearances in program history.

KEY RETURNERS: (last season’s stats)

F- Emily McAteer 5’11, JR: 9.2 PPG, 5.4 RPG, team-high 12 blocks, 37.1% FG, 28.3 MPG, 13 starts

G- Devyne Newman, 5’8, SR: 7.3 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 1.7 APG, 37.9% FG, 31.5 MPG, 9 starts

G-Taleah Dixon, 5’10, SR: 8.1 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 2.2 APG, 31.5 MPG, 13 starts

BIGGEST LOSSES: (last season’s stats)

F- Isabella Therien, 6’0, SR: 12.6 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 37.3% FG, 31.4 MPG, team-high 16 made three-pointers, 11 starts, Third-Team All-Patriot League (graduated)

F- Delaney Connolly, 6’0, SR: 3.8 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 15.8 MPG, 3 starts (graduated)

NEWCOMERS:

G- Jonelle Price, 5’7, (Philadelphia, PA), FR: Playmaking guard who helped Neumann-Goretti to a Class 3A state championship and two city titles. Averaged 15.0 points and 10.0 rebounds in her senior season.

G- Laura Salmeron, 5’8, (Sant Andreu De Llavaneres, Spain), FR: Quick, attacking point guard with strong mid-range game that can extend to the three-point line. Originally a Syracuse commit last year whose arrival was delayed a season due to COVID restrictions. Has competed in Spain’s second division and for the junior national team.

G- Vanessa Stolstajner, 5’9, (Cromwell, CT), FR: Versatile small forward who can play inside and out. Led Cromwell High School to the 2019 Class M championship and three Shoreline Conference titles in four years. Did a post-graduate year at Choate Rosemary Hall but did not play due to a cancelled season.

G- Keegan Douglas, 5’7, (Haddonfield, NJ), FR: Scoring point guard with ability to create for others. A 1,000-point scorer for Haddonfield High School. Named first team All-South Jersey three times.

F- Lex Therien, 6’1, (Marlton, NJ), FR: Physical forward who can attack from the high post off the dribble. 1,000-point scorer for Cherokee High School who averaged 17.0 points and 10.0 rebounds per game over her career. Named to Third-Team All-State as a senior. Originally committed to Boston University. Becomes the third member of her family to play for Loyola.

OUTLOOK: The Greyhounds approach the season with the promise and optimism of a new start. Last season’s 0-13 campaign was a challenging run of COVID interruptions, delays and cancellations for the team. New head coach Danielle O’Banion takes over with a full season schedule on the horizon and nowhere to go but up.

Last year, the team had to integrate seven new faces and this season it adds five freshmen recruits. The squad is young—nine members are freshmen or sophomores. Add a new head coach and there’s a lot of culture-building and role defining to do. It’s going to take time.

It has to start on the offensive end for the Greyhounds. The team was last in scoring offense in the league at 50.4 points per game and at the bottom of the conference in shooting, converting just 32.7% shots from the field and 64-of-254 for 25.2% from three-point distance.

Expect O’Banion to try and create an up-tempo game to find more points and avoid the post mismatches in the half court against teams with more size. The Greyhounds have one of the smaller front lines in the league.

Junior forward Emily McAteer leads the returners at 9.2 points per game. She’ll be joined by guards Taleah Dixon (8.1 ppg) and Devyne Newman (7.3 ppg). Fans can look forward to seeing a few freshmen in the rotation, too. Former Syracuse commit, point guard Laura Salmeron, and forward Lex Therien are likely to see court time.

It’s going to be a challenging season in Baltimore but the re-build is underway.

BEST CASE SCENARIO: The Greyhounds improve their struggling offense and find some of those vital confidence wins for a coach re-building a team culture. Those small successes help to fuel the growth of the program and the team grabs a play-in win in the playoffs.

WORST CASE SCENARIO: Offensive woes continue and the search for solutions creates constant change in the rotation and unexpected modification of player roles, limiting buy-in. The emotional toll of mounting losses slows the growth of the program and its re-start.

NAVY MIDS

Preseason All-Patriot League guard Jennifer Coleman leads the Mids. Photo credit: Phil Hoffmann/Navy Athletics

2020-2021 record: 5-7 (did not participate in the Patriot League tournament due to a positive COVID-19 test within the program’s Tier 1)

Head Coach: Tim Taylor, 2nd season

Record at Navy: 5-7

Career NCAA record: 5-7

Taylor has 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 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.

KEY RETURNERS: (last season’s stats)
G- Jennifer Coleman, 5’9, SR: 
17.1 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 4.2 APG, 42.8% FG, 36.9 MPG, 9 starts, Second-Team All-Patriot League

G- Kolbi Green, 5’4, SR: 13.4 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 2.7 APG, 36.5 MPG, 11 starts, team-high 29 steals

F- Lindsay Llewellyn, 5’10, JR: 7.7 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 34.9% FG, 28.5 MPG, 7 starts

BIGGEST LOSSES: (last season’s stats)

G- Sophie Gatzounas, 5’9, SR: 13.4 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 2.1 APG, 46.2% FG, 36.4 MPG, 11 starts, Third-Team All-Patriot League (graduated)

NEWCOMERS:

F- Savanna Lewis, 6’1, (Los Lunas, NM), FR: Named to Class 4A First Team All-State as a senior for Hope Christian High School. A versatile offensive threat who can score in the post and on the wing. A capable three-point shooter.

G- Kriss Arjukese, 6’0, (Germantown, MD), FR: Three-point sharpshooter. Played for the Bullis School.

OUTLOOK: Navy is trending up with improvements on both ends of the floor under coach Taylor. The first-year coach navigated the challenges of a COVID-impacted season and still managed to implement Xs and Os that had the Mids in position to win the South division last year.

The team returns its top two scorers but will likely have a limited playing rotation again. Jennifer Coleman (17.1 ppg and 11.3 rpg) led the league in minutes played last season with 36.9 minutes per game and three of the top four in the category suited up for Navy.

Last season’s 12-game slate turns into 25 games this year. Can the players logging those big minutes hold up over the course of a full season and a playoff run?

Navy has a very favorable non-conference schedule so the program is likely to hit conference play with a winning record, building its confidence but perhaps less battle tested for games against the league’s top programs.

Coleman is ready for a breakout year. She was named to the Preseason All-Patriot League Team and is joined in the Mids’ line-up by senior guard Kolbi Green. The speedy Green had her best season last year, adding 13.4 points per game. The formidable duo will take Navy as far as it can go.

BEST CASE SCENARIO: Coleman and Green find the consistency the dynamic duo showed glimpses of last season and Navy makes a run at the middle of the pack in conference playoff seeding. The Mids grab an upset win and advance to the semi-finals behind one of Taylor’s box-and-one or triangle-and-two defensive schemes.

WORST CASE SCENARIO: The offense remains in the bottom half of the league. The limited rotation can’t hold up over the course of a full season and Navy slips to the bottom of the conference and loses a play-in playoff game.

The Next SEASON PREDICTIONS:

Playoff seeding:

  1. Lehigh
  2. Boston University
  3. Bucknell
  4. Army
  5. Holy Cross
  6. American
  7. Lafayette
  8. Navy
  9. Colgate
  10. Loyola (MD)

2021-2022 Patriot League Champion: Boston University

Written by Todd Goclowski

Leave a Comment