October 28, 2021 

2021-22 Atlantic 10 preview

'The opportunity to get back to normal'

After a difficult 2020-21 season, the 14 teams of the Atlantic 10 conference are excited to get back on the court and to have fans back in the stands. 

Dayton head coach Shauna Green has high hopes for the A-10 this season. “I think that the conference this year is probably the deepest it’s been in quite a few years and it’s going to be a really big challenge, every single night. Everyone’s gotten better,” she said. 

The 2021-22 season is already off to a strong start. On Oct. 26 the conference announced the A-10 Tournament will be played at CHASE Fieldhouse in Wilmington, DE from March 2-6. The multi-year agreement moves the 14-team tournament back to a neutral site for the first time since 2018. 

CHASE Fieldhouse is currently home to the Delaware Blue Coats of the NBA G League and seats up to 2,500 people. The arena is as close to centrally located as possible with A-10 teams stretched between Massachusetts and Missouri. 

In the conference released press release, A-10 Commissioner Bernadette V. McGlade said “CHASE Fieldhouse provides the A-10 a tremendous opportunity to return our Women’s Basketball Championship to a neutral site after a challenging 2021 COVID year. It is a state-of-the-art arena perfectly located geographically for our women’s championship.” 

Of the 32 Division I conferences, the A-10 will be just one of nine in which the women’s basketball tournament will be at a neutral site different than that of the men’s tournament. 

Richmond head coach Aaron Roussell credited the conference for how hard they worked to get the new site.

“Getting a neutral site these days is I know really, really difficult to do, [and it’s] something that was important to the coaches in the league,” he said. “And I think it gives our players a really fantastic experience. And I think that’s what we look for. Obviously, the games can be played in any sort of gym, I think neutral is best. But at the same point, giving them a real tournament feel. Giving this conference a real tournament feel.”

Over the last five years, the A-10 has sent 11 different teams to postseason play, including eight NCAA Tournament bids and 19 WNIT bids. 

Here’s the breakdown of what each team is going to look like this season:

Davidson

Place (last year): 12th

The Wildcats, who finished last season 9-14 and 5-10 in conference play, won their first three conference games before losing their next seven. During this time, the team also had to go on pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Davidson looks to bounce back after an injury-riddled season and welcome back many of their student-athletes while adding six newcomers. To do this the Wildcats will need to perform better on the defensive end, as the team allowed 66.6 points per game, the second-most in the conference.

Key returners (Last year’s stats):

G Suzi-Rose Deegan 5’10: 10.7 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.4 steals per game (10 games)

G Chloe Welch 5’9: 16.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game

G Cassidy Gould 5’10: 10.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game

F Adelaide Fuller 6’3: 8.9 points and 4.0 rebounds per game

Key losses (Last year’s stats):

G Katie Turner 5’7: 8.6 points, 2.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game

Newcomers:

G Mallorie Haines 5’10: Led Davidson Day School to two straight North Carolina Independent Schools State Championships. One of ESPNW’s top-100 recruits in the 2021 class.

F Maddie Prather 6’: 2021 TSSA Division II champion. Team captain as a junior and senior. Won her team’s Leadership Award in 2021.

F Keeley Evans 6’3: Enrolled during the Spring 2021 semester and played in two games. Played in the 2019 FIBA U17 Women’s Oceania Championship.

F Tomisin Adenupe 6’1: 1,000 point scorer at George Walton High School. Led the conference with 407 total points as a junior.

F Elle Sutphin 6’3: Played two seasons at N.C. State. In her last year of high school, she averaged 21.9 points and 9.3 rebounds per game to reach the NCHSAA Class 1-A state championship game.

F Kelby Bannerman 6’1: Four-year member of the varsity basketball team at Hampshire High School. Averaged 16.4 points per game and 10.8 rebounds.

G Issy Morgan 5’10: Played in the Under-20 Women’s Australia National Championships.

Nonconference Highlights:

Nov. 9 at Virginia Tech

Nov. 12 vs. Columbia

Nov. 17 at Georgetown

Dec. 29 at TCU

Head coach: Gayle Fulks, 5th season

Coach’s Perspective:

“I think last year we, unfortunately, had quite a bit of injuries, which were not good for those players that went down but we were able to give a lot of other players a lot of experience. And so I think this year is just kind of building on that experience as well as integrating back in some other players that had kind of a tough year. And I just think that we’ve got a chance to be quite a bit deeper than we’ve been, particularly last year.”

“Last year, we just didn’t have the bodies due to covid, and injuries and other things. And we finally got that back. And, we’re getting after it in practice. Practice is more competitive than it’s ever been and we are able to really play a lot against each other, which we haven’t been able to do in past seasons. I’m just excited about our depth. I’m excited about our versatility. And just excited that we’ll really be able to play an exciting brand of basketball that’s very up-tempo with the group that we have this year.”

Dayton

Place (last year): 1st

Last season the Flyers went 14-5, including 12-1 in conference play, finding success despite two shutdowns due to COVID-19 and playing just two nonconference games. Despite the regular-season success, Dayton struggled in the postseason, losing in the semi-finals to fifth-seeded VCU and lost both WNIT matchups to Northern Iowa and Bowling Green. Last season Dayton led the A-10 in point differential at 8.3 points per game (11.8 points in conference play). Success on both ends of the court will be key for the Flyers as they seek out a third straight regular-season conference title and their first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2020 (the team last played in an NCAA Tournament game in 2018).

Key returners (Last year’s stats):

G Araion Bradshaw 5’6: 7.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game. NCAA Woman of the Year nominee. 2021 A-10 Defensive Player of the Year.

G Jenna Giacone 6’1: 12.4 points and 2.2 assists per game. 2021 A-10 Most Improved Player.

G/F Erin Whalen 6’1: 13.6 points and 4.8 rebounds per game

C Tenin Magassa 6’5: 9.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. 2021 A-10 Sixth Woman of the Year.

Newcomers:

G Shannon Wheeler 6’: McDonald’s All-American nominee. Regional champion as a senior and was a district champion in three straight years. She was also both a city and regional champion in high jump.

F Brynn Shoup-Hill 6’3: Earned First Team All-Conference honors all four years. Finished as her school’s all-time leading scorer, rebounder and shot blocker. She also finished as the all-time leader in made free throws. Averaged 17.9 points, 9.1 rebounds and 3.8 blocks as a senior. Also lettered in volleyball and softball.

Nonconference Highlights:

Nov. 12 vs. Duke

Nov. 20 at Purdue

Nov. 25 vs. Mississippi State (Daytona Beach Invitational)

Nov. 26 vs. Illinois (Daytona Beach Invitational)

Dec. 8 at Florida

Head coach: Shauna Green, 6th season

Coach’s Perspective:

“We got a veteran team coming back so I think that they know what it takes. They know what it takes to compete for championships, and they also know now not to take anything for granted after last season and playing two non-conference games. We’re going to be challenged in our nonconference so the consistency piece of every single night, trying to play up to our potential. And I thought there were some times last year where we just weren’t as consistent, especially down the stretch. So just taking what we learned from last year and carrying that over and learning those lessons from some of the things that didn’t go well last year.”

“Our goals are to win our regular-season conference championship and then win that tournament conference championship. So we accomplished one out of those two last year and our team’s hungry to try to do both.”

Duquesne

Place (last year): 9th

The Dukes finished last season 5-11, including 4-7 in the A-10. The team struggled with injuries and being unable to play games due to program pauses around the conference, including for the Dukes. Duquesne did not play a game between Jan. 17 and Feb. 12. As of early January 2021, the Dukes were 2-4, the worst start head coach Dan Burt had had in more than 20 years. The Dukes return most of their team from last season and consistency and health will be critical for the team this season.

Key returners (Last year’s stats):

G Libby Bazelak 5’9: 8.4 points, 3.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game (8 games)

C Laia Sole 6’2: 8.1 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game

G Amanda Kalin 5’8: 15.5 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.0 steals per game (6 games)

Newcomers:

G Olivia Westphal 5’9: Averaged 24.7 points per game as a senior. Led her team to a 23-3 record, the WPIAL 6A Championship game and the PIAA Tournament Quarterfinals as a junior.

G Fatou Pouye 6’: Started all 23 games as a senior at Western Kentucky last season.

G Lauren Wasylson 6’: Played in 15 games (started 12) at Xavier last season. Averaged 3.9 points, 2.7 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game.

G Natalija Sekulovska 6’1: Did not play in any high school games last season due to the Canadian government’s COVID-19 protocols. Member of the North Macedonia National Team. Averaged, 9.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game at the 2021 FIBA U20 Women’s European Challengers Tournament.

Nonconference Highlights:

Nov. 9 at UCF

Nov. 20 vs. Pitt

Dec. 18 vs. Penn State

Dec. 21 vs. Cornell

Head coach: Dan Burt, 9th season

Coach’s Perspective:

“We have already grown significantly on and off the court. We return nearly every contributing player from the last two seasons and add two graduate transfers that we expect to play important minutes. Our growth happens with the opening of the UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse, which gives us a gym and locker room to develop our game every day. It’s been a big difference having 24/7 access to our player development center to work on our game, after 700+ days of not having our own home arena.”

“We have a team that has a ton of experience with a couple of distinct groups. Our ‘bonus seniors’ are healthy with Libby Bazelak, Laia Sole, Amanda Kalin and Halle Bovell having all been starters for us in the past, with most of them being honored with preseason or postseason A-10 honors. Combine those four ‘bonus seniors’ with the younger group of players who experienced growth last year, we will need to mesh our talents together for team success. We expect Precious Johnson and Meg[an] McConnell to improve on their solid performances from last season. Tess Myers and Snezhe [Snezhana] Serafirmoska have worked really hard this summer and will challenge for playing time. We also add two graduate transfers in Lauren Waslyson and Fatou Pouye who are absolute gym rats and have a pro mentality, [I’m] excited about the both of them. Our players have shown us that they are willing to sacrifice numbers and honors for wins. That is what this group cares about, wins.”

Fordham

The Rams’ 2020-21 season was a difficult one, head coach Stephanie Gaitley had to quarantine early in the season, assistant coach Sonia Burke was diagnosed with stomach cancer and in mid-February the entire athletics program was put on pause. The offseason did not bring a reprieve from challenges, within a week in July 2021 Gaitley’s sister was diagnosed with cancer, her mother passed away and Burke passed away. The team looks to use the adversity they’ve faced in the last year to fuel their success and tackle a challenging nonconference season. The Rams return their four highest scorers from last season, including the reigning A-10 Co-Player of the Year Anna DeWolfe. 

Place (last year): 2nd

Key returners (Last year’s stats):

F Kaitlyn Downey 6’1: 10.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.0 steals per game. Third Ram to average a double-double across a full season.

G Anna DeWolfe 5’8: 20.8 points, 1.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.3 steals per game

G Kendell Heremaia 5’9: 12.7 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.2 steals per game

Key losses (Last year’s stats):

G Katie McLoughlin 5’10: 4.6 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game

Newcomers:

G Asiah Dingle 5’4: Averaged 11.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.7 steals per game at Stony Brook last season.

F Millie Prior 6’2: Trained at the Centre of Excellence (Australia) with members of various levels of the national team. Won Oceania gold with the Australia U15 and U17 teams and earned a bronze medal with New South Wales U16s.

G Lexie Tarul 5’10: Earned four varsity letters at St. John’s Prep. Scored her 1,000th point during her junior season.

G Sophia Sabino 5’9: Earned four varsity letters at Red Bank Catholic where she was a four-year starter. Broke Red Bank Catholic’s single-season assist record as a sophomore.

G Colleen McQuillen 5’10: Earned four varsity letters at Cresskill. Broke Cresskill’s all-time scoring record as a junior.

Nonconference Highlights:

Nov. 14 at Seton Hall

Nov. 18 at Notre Dame

Nov. 21 vs. Michigan State

Nov. 25 vs. Baylor (Cancun Challenge)

Nov. 27 vs. Arizona State (Cancun Challenge)

Dec. 29 vs. Florida Gulf Coast

Head coach: Stephanie Gaitley, 11th season

Coach’s Perspective:

“I’m hoping that we grow through the adversity that we faced both last season and this summer, to use the way we grew off the court to be able to put that on the court. The chemistry of this team is very strong right now. And I think that’s due to the adversity we faced. So now, having the most challenging out of conference schedule in my career, the intangibles are going to be critical for us to be able to win the game off the paper. On paper, we’re not going to match up with some of these teams. But I think with the intangibles we have it gives us an opportunity to sneak up on someone.”

“We spend a lot of time talking and especially on our board at games; win the battles to win the war. So instead of talking about ‘hey, let’s go out and beat Manhattan,’ it’s hey ‘Let’s go out and win the battle of the boards’ … ‘Let’s make sure we shoot 75% from the foul line.’ So we spent a lot of time talking about win the games within the game. So in order for us to be successful some of our goals have been hold a team five points below their average [and] out rebound our opponent. Because chances are if you hold them below five [points] below their average, if you out rebound them, and you have more assists than turnovers, pretty good chance you’ve won that game.”

George Mason

Place (last year): 14th

Mason finished last season 3-19, including 0-14 in conference play, and former head coach Nyla Milleson resigned at the end of the season. The team averaged just 50.7 points per game and made 30.8% of its shots, both worst in the A-10, including 27.3% from behind the arc, second-worst in the conference. The team will have to improve on offense to win games this season but are welcoming five new players and a new coaching staff to help them do that.

Key returners (Last year’s stats):

G Marika Korpinen 5’9: 9.3 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game

G Jordan Wakefield 6’: 6.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game

G Rachel Balzer 5’10: 5.6 points and 1.3 rebounds per game. Led the team with 35 made threes.

Key losses (Last year’s stats):

F Daijah Jefferson 6’2: 9.0 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game

Nonconference Highlights:

Nov. 14 vs. Virginia Tech

Nov. 23 at American

Dec. 1 vs. Florida

Dec. 20 vs. James Madison

Newcomers:

F Amaya Scott 6’1: Did not play during the 2020-21 season because Bethune-Cookman canceled its remaining 2020-21 season on Oct. 27, 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During the 2019-20 season, she was a First Team All-MEAC selection and averaged 12.9 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. 

F/C Angelee Rodriguez 6’2: Played four minutes per game in seven games last season at USF. Starter on the Puerto Rican National Team since she was 16 years old. Averaged 4.0 points and 9.5 rebounds per game at the 2019 Centrobasket U17 Women’s Championships.

G Paula Suárez 6’: Played for Spain’s U-16 and U-17 teams. Won the league title six times playing for her province of Navarra. Made her professional basketball debut at 17 years old.

G J-Naya Ephraim 5’9: Averaged 4.3 points and 1.6 assists in 22.5 minutes per game at Illinois last season.

G Jayla Adams 5’6: Has not played since the 2018-19 season when she averaged 4.9 points and 2.2 rebounds at Florida Atlantic. She sat out per NCAA transfer rules at BCU during the 2019-20 season and did not play last season because BCU canceled its remaining 2020-21 athletic seasons on Oct. 27, 2020.

Head coach: Vanessa Blair-Lewis, 1st season 

Coach’s Perspective:

[On the team she put together] “It was even better this summer than we thought because you can put abilities together, but personalities are a totally different thing. And to see them mesh the way that they have, so quick, so early, that is where the chemistry is built off the floor, that shows on the floor. So I’m excited about the people we put together but bigger than that the personalities.”

“We are a pace and space type of a team, we want to run the floor. We want to create gaps for our players to be able to attack the rim and do a lot of one on ones. So we have to be in shape and play with a pace.”

George Washington

Place (last year): 11th

The Colonials went 9-14 last season, including 5-9 in A-10 play, George Washington’s worst conference winning percentage since the 2011-12 season. After the end of last season, the program parted ways with former head coach Jennifer Rizzotti before hiring Caroline McCombs in early April. The team welcomes 10 new faces to campus and will look to improve the offense that ranked 13th in the conference last season (56.1 points per game).

Key returners (Last year’s stats):

F Mayowa Taiwo 6’: 6.1 point, 4.9 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 0.8 assists per game

Key losses (Last year’s stats):

G Jasmine Whitney 5’9: 8.6 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 3.0 steals per game

C Ali Brigham 6’4: 11.9 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game

F Neila Luma 6’: 7.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game

Newcomers:

G Sheslanie Laureano 5’10: Averaged 15.8 points and 3.6 steals per game at Florida SouthWestern State last season.

F Michelle Ojo 6’: Averaged 10.2 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.9 steals and 1.6 blocks per game as a senior and helped lead Princess Anne High School to the Virginia High School League (VHSL) 5A State Championship.

G Sierra Bell 5’7: Averaged 10.7 points per game during the 2020-21 season at Purdue Fort Wayne.

F Ty Moore 6’: Averaged 9.7 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 0.9 assists at Troy last season.

G Nya Lok 5’11: Averaged 14.2 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game at Midland College. Named to the All-WJCAC first team.

G Kyara Frames 5’2: Averaged 8.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.2 assists per game during her senior season at Albany. Played in 109 career games at Albany, starting all 78 in her last three seasons.

G Taylor Webster 5’10: Averaged 7.8 points, 7.9 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.0 steals per game as a freshman at UNCW.

G Maxine Engel 6’: Led Hutchison School to its first state title as a senior and averaged 15.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game.

G Leila Patel 5’10: Four-year letter-winner at Frisco Centennial High School. Averaged 20.5 points and 4.6 rebounds per game as a senior.

F Sophie Haydon 6’3: Five-year varsity letter-winner at Minnetonka High School. Averaged 9.3 points and 7.2 rebounds over her career.

Nonconference Highlights:

Nov. 11 vs. Virginia Tech

Nov. 14 @ Minnesota

Nov. 22 vs. Quinnipiac

Nov. 27 vs. Florida (San Juan Shootout)

Dec. 5 vs. Virginia

Head coach: Caroline McCombs, 1st season

Coach’s Perspective:

“I think that we’re still learning each other. We have a lot to do, a lot to learn and a lot of ways to definitely grow. We have 10 new players on the roster right now, we have six players that returned. So really blending those two groups together, a lot of new faces, to learn what GW is all about. And for me a huge opportunity to coach the team. And so I think every day we want to learn, we want to grow, we want to get better together. I think it’s just a process that we’ll have to go through.”

“My philosophy is just ‘we can pound the stone.’ It’s what we talk about on a daily basis. And so it’s just about committing to that process of getting better and so we learn through our successes, we learn through our failures. And that’s just how we grow together. And so I think all teams have success and they have adversity throughout their season, and so how we respond, our resiliency to those things that we’re going to face will be really important. So, I think that our mentality of pounding the stone every day in everything we do, that can be [in] the classroom as well. But we’re just going to learn and grow together, and have fun while we’re doing it.”

La Salle

Place (last year): 8th

The Explorers finished last season 12-14, including 7-10 in conference play. The team’s improvement was led by strong seasons by both Claire Jacobs who finished the season fourth in the A-10 in scoring (16.3 points per game) and Kayla Spruill who finished sixth in the conference in scoring (15.0 points per game) and led the conference in three-point field goal percentage (43.2%). Continued development will be key for La Salle as it continues to rebuild in head coach Mountain MacGillivray’s fourth season as the team seeks its first winning season under him.

Key returners (Last year’s stats):

G Claire Jacobs 6’: 16.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 1.3 assists per game.

G Molly Masciantonio 5’10: Averaged 7.7 points, 2.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.3 steals per game

G/F Kayla Spruill 6’: 15.0 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.0 steals per game

Key losses (Last year’s stats):

G Kate Hill 5’7: 4.5 points and 4.4 assists per game. Led the A-10 and was 12th in the country in assist to turnover ratio (2.74).

G Deja King 5’7: 5.8 points, 1.9 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.1 steals per game

Newcomers:

G Kenya Côté-Lysius 5’8: Averaged 11.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists in her senior season at Champlain College (Quebec, Canada). Competed in 11 international competitions over the last two years with the Canadian National Team.

F Gabby Crawford 6’2: Averaged 12.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game last season at Morehead State. Ranked second in the OVC in rebounds per game and third in blocks per game.

G Julie Jekot 5’11: Four-year letter-winner on Cumberland Valley High School’s girls basketball team. Scored more than 1,000 points in high school.

F Emilee Tahata 6’: Played for the New Zealand Youth National Team. Averaged 7.8 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists in four games of the 2018 FIBA U17 Women’s Basketball World Cup.

Nonconference Highlights:

Nov. 28 at Kentucky

Dec. 1 at Penn

Dec. 21 vs. Villanova

Head coach: Mountain MacGillivray, 4th season

Coach’s Perspective:

“We want to be better each day and be focused on becoming the best team we can be by being detailed in the work that we do. And I think that if we end up having more and more players, be the ones in charge on the court and really take ownership of what we’re doing. And if our coaching staff is able to step into the background a little bit more vocally, so that the players can step up a little bit more, that would be a tremendous accomplishment. I obviously would love to see our team be on the positive side of the win-loss record, as we had not done that yet since I’ve been here, and make a nice run at the Atlantic 10 title come tournament time.”

“Getting another year to coach in the Philadelphia Big 5 and the Atlantic 10, in my hometown, with some people that I really care about excites me every year. So I’m looking forward to doing it again. La Salle’s a special place [so] to have the opportunity to be here and to lead this program is a very unique one and one I’m blessed to have the opportunity to do so, that is always exciting. But also, we’re excited because this to me right now is a two-year process, as every one of the kids who will take the floor for us, returns next year. So we’re really excited to put ourselves in a position to compete for a title and we’re going to use every moment of these next two seasons to put us in that situation.”

Massachusetts

Place (last year): 7th

The Minutewomen finished last season 16-8, including 7-5 in the A-10, despite not playing a game between Jan. 31 and Feb. 26. The team traveled to Richmond, VA for the A-10 tournament as a seven seed with just seven players and made it to the championship game, falling to VCU 81-69. The team’s improbable run earned them a WNIT berth where it fell to Villanova but defeated Charlotte and Ohio. The Minutewomen return their top four scorers and are looking to build on their success from last season and compete in the NCAA Tournament next spring. 

Key returners (Last year’s stats):

G Sydney Taylor 5’9: 15.6 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.2 steals per game

F Sam Breen 6’1: 18.0 points, 10.0 rebounds 1.8 assists and 1.6 steals per game

G Destiney Philoxy 5’7: 11.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 1.5 steals per game

G Ber’Nyah Mayo 5’6: 9.0 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.0 steals per game

Key Losses (Last year’s stats):

F Maddie Sims 6’2: 7.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.0 steals per game (15 games)

Newcomers:

G Alexzeya Brooks 5’9: Led Westtown School to the 2020 Friends League Championship title, its first since 1997. Averaged 15.0 points per game during the 2019-2020 season.

G Damoni Tucker 5’6: Averaged 30 points and 10 assists per game as a freshman to lead her team to the state tournament for the first time in 10 years. Attended the Adidas All-American Camp in 2018 and 2019.

C Natousha Harden 6’4: All-NEPSAC Honorable Mention player during the 2019-20 season. Led her team to the NEPSAC Class E Championship game. Played for Bria Holmes Elite AAU Program.

F Aisha Dabo 6’1: Ranked as the third-best wing player in Georgia and the 24th-best player in the state.

G Shavonne Smith 5’11: Averaged 12 points and 4.8 rebounds last season at Towson.

Nonconference Highlights:

Nov. 12 vs. Harvard

Nov. 23 at Providence

Nov. 26 vs. South Dakota State (Gulf Coast Showcase)

Dec. 8 vs. Boston College

Dec. 11 at Columbia

Head coach: Tory Verdi, 6th season

Coach’s Perspective:

“One, we’re super excited to get some fans back into the arena and play in front of them. And I think that we[‘ve] got a very unique and fun team that will bring some excitement. I think that in my six years this is probably the most talented team that we’re putting on the floor. And we want to showcase that and we want to bring excitement to the community.”

“I think our biggest goal right now is to win the A-10 Championship and last year we were knocking on the door and were about two minutes shy from doing that. But that’s our ultimate goal is to win a championship and get to the NCAA Tournament. And we’re going to keep doing everything that we can, that we’re in control of to make that happen, and we will not rest until that does.”

Rhode Island

Place (last year): 4th

The Rams look to continue the upward trajectory that began when head coach Tammi Reiss took over the program in 2019. Last season the team went 0-3 in nonconference play but went 11-5 in the A-10 for the program’s best A-10 record in 25 years. It was also the team’s third winning conference record since joining the A-10 in 1980. Reiss’ next goal is for the team to set a program record in wins, the current record is 21, set during the 1995-96 season. To do this Rhode Island will need to beat the best teams in the conference. Last season the team went 0-2 against Fordham and 1-1 against VCU with the loss coming in the A-10 Tournament (the scheduled games against Dayton and Saint Louis were postponed but not rescheduled).

Key returners (Last year’s stats):

F Marie-Paule Foppossi 6’1: 12.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game

G Dolly Cairns 5’7: 10.6 points, 1.8 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game

G Marta Vargas 5’9: 9.4 points, 1.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game

F Emmanuelle Tahane 6’1: 14.8 points, 10.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.3 steals per game. A-10 Co-Player of the Year.

Key Losses (Last year’s stats):

G Johanna Muzet 6’: 8.9 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.8 steals per game

Newcomers:

G Dez Elmore 5’10: Started her college career at Syracuse (where Reiss was an assistant coach) before eventually transferring to Seton Hall. During the 2020-21 season, she was the only player in the Big East conference to rank in the Top-15 in scoring (17.4), rebounding (9.1), assists (3.3), blocks (1.4) and steals (1.9).

G Rebecca Demeke 6’1: Averaged 2.6 points and 1.6 rebounds per game in 14 games at N.C. State last season. Competed with Team Canada at the 2018 FIBA U17 Women’s Basketball World Cup.

G Emmi Rinat 5’9: Played club basketball for Elitzur Holon in Israel. Played for Israel’s national team at the U14, U16 and Senior level over the last 4 years.

C Anna Dreimane 6’5: Graduate transfer from Texas A&M. Represented Latvia 35 times in European competition, including an appearance with the senior national team.

G Chanell Williams 5’5: Averaged 9.0 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.2 steals per game at Providence last season.

G Sophie Phillips 6’: Averaged 17.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 5.2 steals in her senior year at Cambridge Central School. Shot a school-record 46% from three as a senior.

C Sophie Sene 6’3

F Hawa Komara 6’

Nonconference Highlights

Nov. 17 at Providence

Nov. 20 vs. Princeton

Nov. 23 vs. Harvard

Nov. 26 vs. Virginia (The Cavalier Classic)

Head coach: Tammi Reiss, 3rd season

Coach’s Perspective:

“I think the biggest one is putting it all together in big games to win the championship. That is the mission. We verbalize it a lot, from day one. And so that’s the next step. Last year, we improved in every area, every facet of the program, maintain[ed] those standards, that culture. But can we turn this, can we win a championship? And that’s the next progression, that’s our goal, that’s our step. And so for me, it’s ‘can they show up every day and work like champions?’”

“The freshmen are holding their own in practice every day. That’s what I love about them. It’s why I recruited them, they’re competitive in nature. They don’t back down, they don’t care that they’re freshmen, and so it is acclimating them very quickly to being able to play against really good competition every day in practice. It’s something we lacked last year, we were not deep by any means. And so, we couldn’t really get after it in practice, with covid and with the lack of numbers. It was hard for us to compete every day and not bang each other up and so now Manue [Emmanuelle Tahane] has someone that goes 6’6 against her every day beating her up. MP’s [Marie-Paule Foppossi] got Dezi [Dez Elmore], Yanni [Hendley] has Chanell [Williams]. I mean it’s been really good for us. And the freshmen, they haven’t missed a beat, they came right in and they’re holding their own and I’m really excited about them. So our philosophy is, you earn every minute you get, and they’re in practice every day trying to earn those minutes and so I’ve been really, really proud of them.”

Richmond

Place (last year): 6th

The Spiders finished last season 13-9, including 9-6 in A-10 play. The team had eight games postponed or canceled last season but still managed to reach their best finish since the 2011-12 season. The team looks to continue to improve behind senior Kate Klimkiewicz and sophomore Addie Budnik who led the conference with 3.0 blocks per game as a freshman.

Key returners (Last year’s stats):

G Grace Townsend 5’5: 6.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.0 steals per game

F Addie Budnik 6’2: 11.4 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 3.0 blocks per game

G Kate Klimkiewicz 6’: 14.3 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 2.0 steals per game

F Elaina Chapman 6’3: 7.0 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.2 steals

Newcomers:

G Katie Hill 6’: Four-year letter-winner and three-year starter at Saint John Vianney High School. McDonald’s All-American nominee. Two-time state champion (2020, 2021).

F Cayla Williams 6’2: Averaged 7.6 points and 5.8 rebounds per game as a junior. McDonald’s All-American Nominee. 

F Sydney Boone 5’8: Averaged 18.4 points per game as a junior. McDonald’s All-American Nominee.

Nonconference Highlights:

Nov. 28 vs. Virginia (The Cavalier Classic)

Dec. 12 vs. William & Mary

Head coach: Aaron Roussell, 3rd year

Coach’s Perspective:

“Kate Klimkiewicz has consistently improved each month she has been here and this offseason was no different. She is faster, stronger and more confident; she is incredibly important to us on both sides of the ball. I’d say the same for Addie Budnik, she had a fantastic rookie season but she is significantly better now than even she was last year. Grace Townsend split some time at the lead guard spot last year so she may not be as experienced as others on our team or in the league but I am excited to see what she can do once she gets comfortable.”

“We have moved past a lot of the hurdles that last year brought with regard to covid and hopefully that is able to sustain this season. While there are still limitations, it was hard as a coach to spend the quality time with the players that you would have liked in order to build trusting relationships. While our group did a good job last year, I think their ability to hang out more has brought them closer and they are having even more fun together as a group which is fun to see.”

St. Bonaventure

Place (last year): 13th

The Bonnies finished last season with a 6-15 record, including 5-12 in the A-10. This was the fifth straight losing season under head coach Jesse Fleming and the team has not finished with more than 10 total wins since he took over as head coach in 2016. In the last two seasons, St. Bonaventure finished last in the A-10 in rebounding. The team will look to improve on their defensive rebounding and limit opponents’ second-chance opportunities. On the offensive end, the Bonnies return their two top scorers in Tori Harris and Asianae Johnson who combined to score 24.5 points per game last season.

Key returners (Last year’s stats):

G Tori Harris 6’: 11.0 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game

G Asianae Johnson 5’8: 13.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.2 steals per game

F I’yanna Lops 6’3: 7.2 points and 4.4 rebounds per game

Key losses (Last year’s stats):

G Olivia Brown 5’8: 7.2 points, 1.9 rebounds and 0.9 steals per game

G Deja Francis 5’7: 7.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.2 steals per game

Newcomers:

G Tianna Johnson 5’10: Did not compete at New Mexico Junior College during the 2020-21 season due to COVID-19 restrictions. Averaged 10.8 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game during the 2019-20 season at Seward Community College.

G Lexie Sinclair 5’8: Averaged 18.9 points, 4.9 rebounds and 7.2 assists as a junior and 15.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game over the course of her career at Bartlett High School. Holds the school record in career and single-game assists.

F Taylor Napper 6’: Averaged 11.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game as a junior to help lead St. John’s College (Lorton, VA) to a 2020 DCSAA Girls Basketball State Championship.

G Nikki Oppenheimer 5’9: Appeared in 40 games at James Madison. Played in 14 games during her freshman year at Syracuse.

G Mackenzie Smith 5’8: Averaged 1.7 points and 1.3 rebounds per game last season at Old Dominion.

G Kacee Baumhower 5’9: Averaged 19.4 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 4.0 steals per game as a junior. Three-year captain of the basketball team.

F B’Aunce Carter 5’11: As a sophomore at Moberly Area Community College averaged 10.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game.

F Ene Adams 6’1: Played in 16 of Wichita State’s 18 games, made four starts last season and averaged 3.1 points and 4.5 rebounds per game.

Nonconference Highlights:

Nov. 9 vs. and Dec. 18 at Robert Morris

Dec. 6 vs. Bucknell

Dec. 9 at Colgate

Head coach: Jesse Fleming, 6th season

Coach’s Perspective:

“I just think we’ve got to be a better defensive team. And that’s specifically in relation to rebounding. I just think we’ve really struggled there. We’ve been 12th, 13th, 14th in rebounding margin for a few years here. And I think there’s some schematic things that we need to adjust with that. But I also think there was some personnel things as well.”

“I would say Tori [Harris] and Asianae [Johnson] really have taken on a leadership role with this team. They’re just really some committed individuals and have worked hard to grow as leaders. And I hope that’s something that transfers over. But I think you’re going to see a big step as far as seeing that leadership on the floor.”

Saint Joseph’s

Place (last year): 10th

Despite facing a conference-high four COVID-19 program pauses the Hawks were able to bounce back after finishing last in the A-10 during the 2019-20 season. The team finished 7-10, including 5-9 in conference play. The team retains most of its core from last year and Alexis Santarelli returns this season as a graduate manager. Continuing to improve will require consistency the team struggled to create last year due to COVID-19 pauses.

Key returners (Last year’s stats):

G Kaliah Henderson 5’10: 11.4 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game

G Katie Jekot 5’9: 9.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.2 steals per game

G Alayna Gribble 6’: 8.2 points and 1.9 rebounds per game

F Gabby Smalls 6’2: 7.3 points and 6.9 rebounds per game

Key losses (Last year’s stats):

F Alexis Santarelli 6’1: 6.9 points and 3.2 rebounds per game

Newcomers:

G Kaylie Griffin 5’7: Averaged 11.0 points and 7.0 assists per game as a junior. Two-time All-Conference selection at Gwynedd Mercy Academy. Daughter of Hawks head coach Cindy Griffin, who played for Saint Joseph’s from 1987-92.

G Julia Nyström 5’7: Played for IK Eos Lund in the Svenska Basketligan, the highest basketball division in Sweden after playing in the second-highest division from 2017-2019. Averaged 10.7 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game in 2019.

F Laila Fair 6’2: Led Stuart Country Day School to the NJISAA Prep B state title and Mercer County Tournament finals as a junior.

G Mackenzie Smith 5’10: 2019 Nova Scotia Junior (U-17) Female Basketball Player of the Year. Played a post-grad year at King’s-Edgehill School Prep (Nova Scotia).

F Talya Brugler 6’1: Broke the 34-year-old Nazareth Area High School record for most points in a season (586) as a junior. Three-time All-Conference and All-Area selection at NAHS.

Nonconference Highlights:

Nov. 20 vs. Villanova

Dec. 4 vs. Yale

Dec. 7 at Penn

Dec. 21 vs. Vanderbilt

Head coach: Cindy Griffin, 21st season

Coach’s Perspective:

[On what she hopes will be different from last season] “I just think being able to know what’s coming next. I think that consistency and the everyday approach, knowing that you can’t take anything for granted. I think we learned that, but in the end, being able to put together back-to-back practices, back-to-back games and really just to be consistent on the court. We’re looking forward to that.”

“I think we have a great mix of some older veterans and we have a great mix of some younger rookies that are going to be very impactful, and I’m excited to see our improvement as we get out on the court and we compete every day. And we’re excited about seeing how the veterans bring along the newcomers. And I think that’s gonna be really important because the newcomers are very talented, and they’re going to be on the court and it’s going to be really exciting to see that youth movement shine through.”

“We’ve talked a lot about what kind of team that we want to be as far as the intangibles, a gritty team, a team that is resilient, that really embodies The Hawk Will Never Die spirit. And also position ourselves in a way that we can finish in that middle part of our league, and also surprise some people and make a serious run at the end of the season.”

Saint Louis

Place (last year): 3rd

The Billikens finished last season 14-5, including 9-3 in conference play. The team had a rough start to the season, with three program pauses before the end of 2020. The team was able to play just two nonconference games, Dec. 4 and 6, and was not able to take the court again until Jan. 17. Once Saint Louis was able to get onto the court, the team struggled early, starting 2-3 in conference play, before winning their last seven games of the regular season. The Billikens fell to the red hot UMass Minutewomen in the semifinals of the A-10 Tournament before winning their first two WNIT games. The team eventually fell to Northern Iowa in its third WNIT game. Saint Louis returns three of its top four scorers from last season and looks to compete for an NCAA Tournament spot, continuing its mission from last season.

Key returners (Last year’s stats):

G Ciaja Harbison 5’6: 16.9 points, 1.9 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.3 steals per game

F Myriama Smith Traore 6’2: 9.1 points, 9.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.2 blocks and 1.1 steals per game

F/C Brooke Flowers 6’5: 10.2 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game

Key losses (Last year’s stats):

G/F Rachel Kent 5’11: 12.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game

G Myia Clark 5’7: 7.0 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game

Nonconference Highlights:

Nov. 17 vs. Missouri

Nov. 21 at Kansas

Nov. 26 vs. Florida (San Juan Shootout)

Nov. 27 vs. Florida Gulf Coast (San Juan Shootout)

Newcomers:

F Sarah Lazar 6’3: Four-year varsity starter. Averaged 11.7 points and 1.5 blocks per game as a junior.

F Sevval Gul 6’4: Joined the Billikens in January 2021 and sat out due to eligibility rules. Played in 16 games for Arizona during the 2019-2020 season.

Head coach: Lisa Stone, 10th season

Coach’s Perspective:

“We want to be in the NCAA Tournament. So to do that, we need to defend and rebound. We need to do very well in our nonconference games, we’ve got a really difficult schedule, but to get our NET ranking at a level that we are taking that momentum into the A-10. And that we can put ourselves in a position for either an A-10 Championship or an at large bid. Those are our goals. And to do that, we need to be one of the best defensive and rebounding teams in the league.”

[On what excites her about this season] “The opportunity to get back to normal. Just to have fans in the stands and play games and compete at a high level. But I’m really excited about this team. They’re very close, we’ve spent a lot of time doing a lot of outdoor activities and getting involved in some community service and just really bonding as a team that we couldn’t do last year. So I’m excited to see where that’ll lead us.”

VCU

Place (last year): 5th

The Rams finished last season 16-11, including 10-5 in the A-10. VCU did not let a slow start to the season or two program pauses slow them down, winning three of its last four games and earning the fifth seed in the A-10 Tournament. The team won four games in four days, taking down 12-seed Davidson, 4-seed Rhode Island, 1-seed Dayton and 7-seed UMass to secure the team’s first conference championship and to send them to the team’s first NCAA Tournament since 2009. Though the team lost in the first round to Indiana it remains hungry to return to postseason play and looks to continue its success this season. The Rams return three of their top five scorers from last season.

Key returners (Last year’s stats):

G Sarah Te-Biasu 5’5: 10.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.5 steals per game

G Taya Robinson 5’10: 14.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.6 steals per game

G Janika Griffith-Wallace 5’9: 7.0 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.1 steals per game

Key losses (Last year’s stats):

F Sydnei Archie 5’10: 9.4 points and 7.4 rebounds per game (14 games)

G Tera Reed 6’: 11.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.3 steals per game

Newcomers:

Adebukola Akomolafe: Played at Americas High School.

F Skye Robinson 6’2: Attended TPLS Christian Academy.

F Keowa Walters 6’2: Averaged 6.1 points and 5.7 rebounds per game last season at Buffalo. Played in 73 games during her three seasons at Buffalo.

F Mykel Parham 6’2: Averaged 1.2 points and 3.2 rebounds per game at Creighton last season. Played in 30 overall games during her two seasons at Creighton.

Nonconference Highlights:

Nov. 25 vs. Washington (Goombay Splash)

Nov. 26 vs. North Carolina (Goombay Splash)

Dec. 5 vs. Boston College

Dec. 12 vs. USF

Head coach: Beth O’Boyle, 8th season

Coach’s Perspective:

“Our number one goal is that we want to play the best VCU basketball we can be playing by March. We want to be communicating on the floor, we want to make sure we are playing at a high pace with lots of energy and that our bench is really engaged. I think for us, we always expect and want to be competing for a championship as well as make sure we are putting ourselves in a good position for postseason play.”

“It’s really great to have Taya Robinson back for her fifth year. She was a major part of our success last season so we will be looking to her from a leadership standpoint and on the floor. I think Sarah Te-Biasu got a lot of experience as a freshman point guard and though I think she played at an extremely high level, you already see more growth in her so I think we expect a lot from her this season as well.”

“I think obviously last year was so challenging with the stop and go of covid and quarantines. I think I would say I’m more grateful than anything, grateful for the resources that VCU has provided us so that we can stay safe, compete and travel. I just think those moments that you get to spend with your team, whether it’s in the BDC [Basketball Development Center] or on the road. I’m just excited for us to have fans back at the Stu [Stuart C. Siegel Center] and our great pep band, The Peppas. There were a lot of moments and things we missed last year. I’m hoping that we can stay as consistent and safe as possible so we can have a great season.”

Written by Natalie Heavren

Natalie Heavren has been covering women’s basketball since February 2019 and currently covers both the Atlantic 10 and the WNBA.

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