January 19, 2022 

Patriot League notebook: Navy’s Sydne Watts steps up

Rookies are impressing, which freshmen are standing out?

Freshmen throughout the Patriot League continue to make a significant impact this season as both future and present stars led Lehigh and Bucknell to key wins last week. Colgate plays a trio of first-years in its rotation and its youth movement pushed Holy Cross to the brink. Are the Raiders ready for a break-out win? Down in Annapolis, Navy senior star Jennifer Coleman continues to rack up impressive numbers and is now fifth in the nation in scoring; the emergence of sophomore teammate Sydne Watts makes the Mids a team capable of being more than a spoiler. Let’s take a closer look at the league’s fresh faces and dive into Watts’ expanded role at Navy. Here’s the breakdown:

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Rookies are making an impact all around the league

There’s a youth movement in the league. By both necessity and design, new faces are playing some big roles this season. The league’s three preseason favorites all currently play a freshman starter: Boston University, Bucknell, and Lehigh have each received impactful play from a first-year; last week’s action highlights the trend.

When Lehigh freshman guard Ella Stemmer entered the game against Loyola (MD) in the first quarter on Saturday, it took her exactly one minute to find her shot. When that first three-pointer went in, Stemmer was unleashed. She hit three more behind the arc in the next three minutes and sparked the Mountain Hawks to a 72-61 win, snapping a two-game skid for the injury-plagued defending champs. She was not alone out there, classmate Meghan O’Brien has started seven games for head coach Sue Troyan’s group.

In Lewisburg, first-year Cecelia Collins is a starter for head coach Trevor Woodruff. In the showdown against Lehigh last week, she balanced running the offense with a combination of a deliberate tempo and an attacking mindset—and led the Bison to a key win with 16 points, 6 rebounds and four assists. Collins has started every game for Bucknell and shares the role of directing the offense.

In New York, Colgate is playing a trio of freshmen as the Raiders look to gain some traction in the win column. Sophia Diehl, Taylor Golembiewski and Morgan McMahon started against Holy Cross and gave the Crusaders all they could handle before falling, 62-57. They have combined for 22 starts this season and produce about half the team’s offensive output with 26.8 points per game.

In Baltimore, Loyola (MD) teammates Lex Therien and Laura Salmeron have 22 starts between them, each averaging over 30 minutes per game. Salmeron has missed the last four games due to injury, but is expected to return to action. Therien is making her case for Rookie of the Year and averaging a double-double on the season.

Here’s a glance at some of the freshmen making an impression in the league this season:

Cecelia Collins (Bucknell)

The 6’0 Scranton native is sharing point guard duties for the Bison and posting 11.7 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. Collins is shooting 46.9% from the floor and has started all 16 games. She can do it all on both ends of the floor.

Sophia Diehl (Colgate)

The 6’1 forward has made two starts for the Raiders and averages 24.8 minutes played per game. She’s posting 8.5 points and 4.6 rebounds a contest. Diehl’s mid-range game is her strength and she’s a developing perimeter shooter. She’s shooting 39.8% from the floor.

Claire Gallagher (Lafayette)

The 5’11 shooting guard has made two starts for the Leopards and is averaging 19.0 minutes per game. Gallagher is Lafayette’s best perimeter shooter and leads the team from three-point distance, shooting 15-for-35 for 42.9%. She’s posting 6.9 points and 3.1 rebounds per game.

Alex Giannaros (Boston University)

The 5’5 guard has made 7 starts for the Terriers and is scoring 8.7 point per game. She scored 24 points in a 64-56 win over Army last week. She’s shooting 44.7% from the field. Giannaros suffered a lower leg injury this weekend against Navy and the timetable for her return to action is unknown.

Taylor Golembiewski (Colgate)

Scored a career-best 21 points in a 62-57 loss to Holy Cross over the weekend. She’s Colgate’s leading scorer at 9.9 points per game and is playing 30.1 minutes per game. Golembiewski is shooting 36.9% from the field.

Morgan McMahon (Colgate)

The explosive scoring guard put up 13 points in the fourth quarter of a 65-62 loss to Navy last week, finishing with 21. She’s made five starts and has proven herself to be the Raiders’ best deep threat from three, shooting 36.6% (15-for-41). She is scoring 8.4 per game.

Meghan O’Brien (Lehigh)

The 6’1 forward has made seven starts for the defending champions and is seeing the floor for 18.7 minutes per game. She’s shooting 41.8% from the field and posting 4.4 points and 3.6 rebounds per game.

Laura Salmeron (Loyola MD)

The point guard from Spain has started 10 games for first-year coach Danielle O’Banion and logged 31.0 minutes per game this year. Salmeron is averaging 9.0 points and 3 .4 rebounds per game. She’s missed the last two weeks due to a leg injury but is expected to return.

Lex Therien (Loyola MD)

The 6’1 forward has started 12 games for the Greyhounds and is averaging a double-double (11.5 ppg and 10.6 rpg). Therien has quickly become the anchor of the offense and is the team’s most physical presence inside. Therien plays 32.6 minutes per game.

Sydne Watts steps into a larger role for Navy

Navy sophomore Sydne Watts
Photo credit: Navy Athletic Communications/Phil Hoffmann

There’s a new dynamic duo in Annapolis. Senior Jennifer Coleman continues to lead the league in scoring, rebounding, steals and minutes played—but there’s a one-two punch emerging on the Mids. As defenses focus on the dynamic Coleman, sophomore Sydne Watts is stepping up.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Coming into the season, the duo with the most anticipation for Navy was its backcourt of Coleman and Kolbi Green. Last year, that pair produced a combined 30.5 points and 18.8 rebounds per game—51.7% of the team’s offense. But Green and the program parted ways just five games into her season and the depth and punch of an already tight rotation was lost.

But what was lost was found in Watts. The 6’0 small forward started four games last year, averaging 4.7 points per game and playing 18.6 minutes an outing. But she’s taking on a bigger role in the new version of the Mids, seeing the floor for 37.3 minutes a contest over the last four conference games.

Navy’s upset win over Bucknell in week two of league play started a four-game stretch for Watts in which she scored 14.5 points and grabbed 5.5 rebounds per game. She also shot 48.0% (24-for-50) in that span.

Last week, the durable Watts played 40 minutes in each conference game for head coach Tim Taylor in a weekend split for the Mids; Coleman did the same. Watts scored a career-best 20 points in a tight, 74-63 loss to first-place Boston University. She added 12 points and 7 rebounds in a 65-62 victory over Colgate.

With a new dynamic pair in Annapolis, what’s the outlook? The Mids have played five of their six league games against the top half of the conference, including a home-and-home with undefeated league leader, Boston University. The home stretch is more favorable and there’s a realistic opportunity to make a move into the top half of the standings.

Can Navy’s limited rotation handle the load? If it can, the duo of Coleman and Watts can make Navy more than a spoiler down the stretch.

Current Standings:

(League record, overall record)

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

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

This weekend’s clash between Boston University and Lehigh is their first meeting since the Mountain Hawks’ stunning win in last season’s league championship game. Photo credit: Boston University Athletics

Boston University at Lehigh

Saturday, January 22nd @2:00p.m.

A rematch of last season’s epic conference championship game when the four-seed Mountain Hawks pulled the upset of the host, and two-seed, Terriers.

The match-up features the Terriers’ playmaker Sydney Johnson (14.5 ppg and 2.5 rpg) and Lehigh sharpshooter Mackenzie Kramer (15.5 ppg and 41.9% 3pt). An x-factor for Lehigh will be the availability of forward Frannie Hottinger (14.5 ppg and 6.7 rpg). She’s missed the previous three games heading into this week and her timetable for return from injury is unknown.

The Terriers are a different team this year on the defensive end, primarily employing man-to-man defense under new head coach Melissa Graves. The presence of 6’4 transfer forward Caitlin Weimar has added a new wrinkle for BU and points in the paint should be a concern for the Mountain Hawks. Expect Lehigh to give Boston different zone looks throughout the game to try and neutralize the post play.

These are two of the top shooting teams in the league. The Terriers are third in the league, converting 41.9% from the floor and Lehigh sits just behind them at 41.6%. Lehigh leads the league in scoring at 71.9 point per game and is in the top ten nationally for both three pointers made and attempted. This game will have pace and is the best match-up of the week.

The last meeting: March 14, 2021.The Mountain Hawks won, 64-54, in the league tournament championship. Lehigh’s mixing of zone coverages on defense took the Terriers out of their set plays, disrupting their offense and forcing them into a perimeter game. Lehigh was led by Frannie Hottinger who added a team-high 21 points on 9-for14 shooting.

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.)

January 19th

Navy at Lehigh @6:00p.m.

Loyola (MD) at Boston University @6:00p.m.

Army at American @6:00p.m.

Bucknell at Colgate @6:00p.m.

Lafayette at Holy Cross @6:00p.m.

January 22nd

Army at Navy @11:00a.m.

Colgate at Lafayette @2:00p.m.

Boston University at Lehigh @2:00p.m.

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

Holy Cross at Bucknell @2:00p.m.

Patriot League Player of the Week

Jennifer Coleman, Navy, Senior Guard

  • In a 74-63 loss to Boston University, she had career-highs in points (32) and rebounds (16). She was 13-for-24 from the floor and 3-for-4 from behind the arc.
  • Coleman leads the league in both scoring and rebounding. She has 170 total rebounds and is averaging 10.6 boards per game. Her 23.5 points per game is more than six points higher than the next best scorer.
  • Coleman is playing a league-high 37.6 minutes per game this season. In a 1-1 week, she played all 40 minutes in each game.

Patriot League Rookie of the Week

Cecelia Collins, Bucknell, Freshman Guard

  • Dished out a career-high nine assists in a 62-52 victory over American to cap a 2-0 week for the Bison. She averaging 2.5 assists per game.
  • Led Bucknell to a key road win over Lehigh with 16 points, 6 rebounds and four assists.
  • Collins has started all 16 games for the Bison this season and is second on the team with 32.4 minutes per game.

League news and notes

  • Taylor O’Brien led Bucknell to a 2-0 week including a key 56-45 win over league favorite Lehigh. The senior guard posted 19 points and a game-high 16 rebounds. She’s tied for the lead in rebounding for the Bison with 6.6 caroms per game, equaling teammate, Carly Krsul.
  • The Holy Cross Crusaders continue to impress on the defensive end of the floor. Guards Avery LaBarbera (1.6) and Addisyn Cross (1.3) are among the league’s top 20 in steals. The Crusader are first in scoring defense, yielding just 55.1 points per game.
  • Junior guard Sydney Johnson leads the first-place Terriers in scoring with 14.5 points per contest. She logged a season-high 40 minutes in Boston’s 74-63 road win over Navy and added four three pointers on her way to a 20-point outing.
  • First-year mentors Danielle O’Banion (Loyola MD) and Ganiyat Adeduntan (Colgate) are in search of their first conference wins. The two coaches face off on Wednesday, January 26 in Baltimore.
  • Lehigh is currently sixth in the country in three-point field goals attempted. The Mountain Hawks’ 476 attempts sit just behind the Oklahoma Sooners with 483. The team’s 158 makes tie it with DePaul for seventh-best nationally.
  • In American’s 62-52 defeat on the road to Bucknell, the Eagles did not have a field goal from their bench until 9:50 remained in the fourth quarter. Guard Kayla Henning’s jumper broke the drought. The Bison bench outscored American’s 19-7 for the game.
  • Colgate matched a season-best shooting performance in the Raiders’ 62-57 loss to Holy Cross. They shot 45.5% from the field, converting 25-for-55 and matching the exact output from the team’s first win of the season against UMBC back on November 13.
  • This week’s American-Army game is a key match-up for two teams trying to push into the top half of the league standings. It’s also the first time the squads have met since the Eagles’ 76-56 win in the Patriot League quarterfinals last March. American has an eight-game winning streak in the series but this will be the first time new Army coach Missy Traversi faces the Eagles.

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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