February 2, 2023 

Patriot League Notebook: Dynamic duo sparks a streak for Lafayette

Teammates Abby Antognoli and Makayla Andrews have Lafayette on the winning track and can they lead the Leopards to a top-four finish?

While Boston University is streaking its way to an undefeated regular season and sitting on top at 10-0, the beauty of league play this year is the chaos below the tip of the iceberg — and there’s a lot going on beneath the surface. 

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The uncertainty and unpredictability of the season has opened the door for teams on a streak to see a path to the championship, to dream about hosting a playoff game as a top-four seed, or rising above the expectation of a preseason poll.

So who’s looking to walk through that open door this week? 

Lafayette and Army head into the weekend, each riding a four-game winning streak and making a push into the top half of the conference. Neither squad was picked to finish in the top four in the league’s preseason poll, but it’s now a goal within reach.

Lafayette is the bigger surprise and embracing the wild ride of conference play.

Can head coach Kia Damon-Olson’s squad break out of the pack? Let’s take a look at how the Leopards are thriving among the chaos in this week’s notebook:

Abby Antognoli is sparking a mid-season streak for Lafayette

Please forgive Abby Antognoli if she can’t wipe the smile from her face. 

Is she smiling because she just dropped an and-one on you or made a slick pocket pass in traffic? Probably. But she doesn’t mean any disrespect, she just genuinely plays with a lot of joy. It’s that exuberance that has fueled Lafayette’s recent winning streak and saved a season on the brink from sliding off the edge.

Big play, big smile. And if you’re disarmed by it, you’ve already lost. Antognoli is an extremely tough competitor.

The sophomore guard plays with a lot of joy and confidence — and that contagious attitude is at the heart of the reasons why the Leopards have put together a string of impressive wins. Lafayette is 5-5 in league play and has won five of its last six for an overall mark of 8-12.

The elusive point guard has earned her way to the top of her opponent’s scout with an impressive stretch in conference play. Defenses are targeting the sophomore — but to slow her down, they’ll have to catch her first. She’s a former state champion middle distance runner for St. Rose in New Jersey.

What’s that scout saying?

High motor. Creative. Relentless.

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Since senior guard Jess Booth went out with an injury in mid-January, Antognoli has had to step up as both a playmaker and a vocal leader. Although just a sophomore, she wears it well.

In league play, she’s averaging 13.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.3 steals per game. Antognoli knows how to find her spot on the floor and has a knack for making the right play in the moment. She also knows how to bring her troops together.

Antognoli is the kind of teammate that creates confidence in those around her and when she flashes that smile, good things are happening for Lafayette. That leadership is characteristic of a champion and reflects her success as a player for St. Rose in New Jersey.

And the other St. Rose graduate in the starting line-up? She’s pretty good, too. Makayla Andrews is busting out this season. She’s been the go-to scorer all year long and has established herself as one of the best guards in the league.

During the team’s four-game streak, the 5’10 junior has scored 16.5 points per game on a 26-for-50 effort from the floor. She’s also averaged 5.7 rebounds per game in that stretch. 

Junior Makayla Andrews is the top scorer for the Lafayette Leopards. (Photo credit: Lafayette College)

Andrews’ 13.2 per game scoring average for the season is good for ninth in the league, while her 45.3% shooting mark makes her the sixth most proficient shooter. The team has asked more from her in a shorter rotation and she has responded on both ends of the floor. 

It’s the defensive end that’s been the key for the Leopards.

Lafayette’s mix of man-to-man and zone defense has slowed opponents. In their last two games, the Leopards allowed 35 points to Loyola and 45 to Colgate. A big part of that lockdown defense is the shot-making of both Andrews and Antognoli, which allows the team to set up and dig in with energy.

Head coach Kia Damon-Olson summed it up after her squad’s comeback win over Colgate: “Sometimes for us, when the ball goes in the basket, that gives us energy. And then we can get stops. And that allows us to continue to play the game we want to play.”

If the Leopards can continue to make other teams play their style, Damon-Olson may just flash a smile, too.

Current Standings:

(League record, overall record)

  1. Boston University (10-0, 15-6)
  2. Holy Cross (8-2, 15-6)
  3. Lehigh (6-4, 10-11)
  4. Army (6-4, 8-12)
  5. Lafayette (5-5, 8-12)
  6. American (4-6, 5-16)
  7. Colgate (4-6, 10-11)
  8. Bucknell (4-6, 8-13)
  9. Loyola (MD) (2-8, 7-14)
  10. Navy (1-9, 1-20)

What’s the can’t-miss match-up of the week? 

Sabria Hunter leads Army in a key mid-season showdown with Bucknell in West Point this weekend. Hunter anchors the inside play for the Black Knights and has posted 14 double-doubles on the season. (Photo credit: Army West Point Communications)

Bucknell at Army

Saturday, Feb. 4th @1:00p.m.

The Black Knights are streaking with four consecutive victories and the Bison are trending up after back-to-back wins and the prospect of star guard Cecelia Collins returning from a lower leg injury for the stretch run. Expect a battle of tempo as Bucknell will look to slow things down in the halfcourt. Army is third in the league in scoring at 60.9 per game, while the more deliberate Bison are putting up 54.8.

Army’s four-game winning streak began with a road win at Bucknell and bookended with a road win over Holy Cross. The Bison come in after a 73-37 whipping of Loyola.

What’s at stake? The inside track on a top-four finish and a quarterfinal match-up at home in the playoffs. A win for Army means a season-sweep of Bucknell and a three-game lead over the squad in the standings. It’s a must-win for the Bison.

Senior guard Tai Johnson has been a leader for Bucknell in Collins’ absence. Johnson has started the last eight games after coming off the bench for the previous 11 contests. In her most recent eight-game stretch as a starter, she’s averaging 12.9 points per game and shooting 44.9% from the floor.

The Black Knights are led by the inside-out combo of senior forward Sabria Hunter and freshman guard Reese Ericson. Hunter has 14 double-doubles this season—the fifth most in D1, tied with Aliyah Boston of South Carolina. The senior is averaging 14.2 points and 17.0 rebounds per game over the course of Army’s four-game winning streak.

Ericson has erupted since her 2-for-7 (5 points) effort against Bucknell on the road. In the next three games, the first-year Oregon native has averaged 17.0 points per game on 45.9% shooting. 

Fans can expect a playoff atmosphere at West Point and the best game in this weekend’s line-up. Army’s won just two of the last 10 match-ups between these rivals, but they’ve won two of the last three.

The last meeting: Jan. 18, 2023. Army won 52-43 in Lewisburg. Despite shooting just 31.1% from the floor and getting outrebounded by seven, the Black Knights prevailed behind a physical defense that forced 22 turnovers. Army enjoyed a 17-6 edge in points off turnovers. It was a poor shooting performance for the Bison, who were 0-for-8 from three-point range and just 7-for-15 from the free-throw line.

League news and notes

  • Boston University forward Caitlin Weimar has posted 11 double-doubles this season. The junior is scoring 14.6 points and grabbing 10.6 rebounds per game. She leads the Terriers with 33 blocks.
  • Four out of the last five games for American University have been decided by two points or less. The Eagles’ record in those nail-biters? 1-3. American topped Colgate, 59-57, for that lone win. Junior guard Ivy Bales sank a jumper with 2.4 seconds left for the victory.
  • Freshman guard Kaitlyn Flanagan scored a career-high 14 points for Holy Cross in a 76-74 overtime loss to Lehigh. The Plymouth Whitemarsh product has started all 21 games for the 16-5 Crusaders. She leads the team with 3.0 assists per game.
  • Sophomore guard Taylor Golembiewski has started all 49 games she has played in for the Colgate Raiders.
  • Lehigh leads the league in scoring with 72.2 points per game. The 10-11 Mountain Hawks led the league last season with 69.0 per game.
  • Boston University is third in the nation in three-point shooting percentage. The Terriers are converting 39.6% of their threes, trailing only Gonzaga (40.5%) and Connecticut (40.2%).
  • Junior Sydne Watts leads Navy with 13.4 points per game. She’s played all 40 minutes in a game six times this season.
  • Emma Shaffer has made 55 straight starts for Bucknell. The senior forward leads the Bison with 8.2 rebounds per contest and is shooting 44.4% from the floor.
  • Second-place Holy Cross holds a two-game lead over both Lehigh and Army despite not having a top-ten scorer among the conference performers.
  • Freshman forward Nicole Parks played a season-high 19 minutes in Colgate’s 53-45 loss at Lafayette. Parks was 7-for-7 from the field, scored a career-best 14 points and pulled in four rebounds.

Tune in to Patriot League action this week

(Note: All games are streamed through ESPN+ for a subscription fee. Click here for the video link to all league competition. All times are EST.)

Feb. 4th

Holy Cross at Navy @12:30p.m.

Bucknell at Army @1:00p.m.

American at Colgate @2:00p.m.

Loyola (MD) at Boston University @2:00p.m.

Lafayette at Lehigh@4:00p.m.

Written by Todd Goclowski

Todd Goclowski currently covers the Patriot League for The Next. Goclowski brings 25 years of coaching experience to his role as an analyst and writer, including 19 years of coaching women's basketball in the NCAA at the D1 and D3 levels.

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