Oct. 23, 2013
CENTER VALLEY, Pa. -- Fresh off its third consecutive Patriot League Women's Basketball championship, Navy has been named the favorite once again in 2013-14 in preseason poll voting, while Navy forward Jade Geif was named the Preseason Player of the Year.
Voting was conducted by the League's head coaches and sports information directors who could not cast ballots for their own teams or student-athletes.
Patriot League Network correspondent Melanie Pellowski spoke with all 10 head coaches over the last several weeks via Skype. The first of those interviews with Colgate head coach Nicci Hays Fort will be available at 10:30 a.m., with subsequent videos posted every half hour thereafter.
The Mids, who aim to become the second program in history to claim four consecutive League titles, finished with a poll-topping 157 points on the strength of 14 first-place votes. Army, which tied Navy atop the 2012-13 regular-season standings and was the League Tournament's No. 1 seed, captured 133 points and three first-place votes.
For the first time since American's entry for the 2001-02 campaign, the Patriot League has expanded with newcomers Boston University and Loyola Maryland. The Terriers claimed third in the poll with 128 points and the last three first-place votes. Holy Cross, which has appeared in two straight League title games, was fourth with 112 points. Lehigh rounded out the top half of the poll in fifth with 97 points.
American, the one League program featuring a new head coach this season, took sixth with 87 points, while Bucknell settled for seventh with 62 points. Loyola captured 54 points to take eighth in the preseason balloting, while Lafayette (37 points) and Colgate (33) secured ninth and 10th, respectively.
Five squads were represented on the preseason All-League team. Joining Geif are fellow seniors Rashidat Agboola, a forward from Boston University, and Holy Cross guard Alex Smith. The remaining two spots on the team are occupied by Army sophomore guard Kelsey Minato and Lehigh sophomore forward Kerry Kinek.
Now the League's Preseason Player of the Year three straight Octobers, Geif is coming off another stellar campaign that saw her named first-team All-Patriot League. She ended her junior season fourth in the League in both scoring (13.0) and rebounding (7.9) while leading all players in shooting 53.2 percent from the floor. The 2011 and '12 Patriot League Tournament MVP added a third All-Tournament citation last year during the Mids' third straight run to a League crown.
Agboola authored a junior campaign that ultimately put her on the All-America East First Team, the All-Defensive Team and its All-Academic Team. The 6-foot-1 forward was a force up front averaging a team-high 9.0 rebounds and tallying a team-best 46 blocks. She ended the season ranked second on the team in scoring (11.7 ppg) with eight double-doubles. She averaged 35.5 minutes in 30 starts and shot nearly 46 percent from the field.
A two-time first-team All-League selection, Smith led the Patriot League last season averaging 14.5 points per game, and many of those came from beyond the arc. She was second in the League hitting at 37.2 percent on treys while sinking a League-high 93. In addition to scoring, Smith has proven to be an effective ball distributor as well. She was second on her team and fifth in the League averaging 3.7 assists. Smith helped the Holy Cross offense lead the League in scoring at 59.9 points per game during a season that saw the Crusaders advance to the Patriot League title game for a second consecutive March.
Minato arrived at West Point and immediately began putting together what would become one of the most notable rookie seasons in Patriot League history. The first player in League annals named Player and Rookie of the Year at the same time, Minato averaged 12.8 points per game, good for sixth in the League, while leading all players from beyond the arc (37.9 percent) and at the foul line (82.9). As the point guard, she ran an Army offense that scored 57.3 points per game and tied Navy for the largest scoring margin in the League at plus-6.0.
Kinek joined Minato as one of two freshmen on the All-League first team a season ago. The 6-foot-3 forward comes off a rookie season in which she finished fifth in the League in scoring at 12.8 points, second in rebounding at 8.3 caroms and third with 1.8 blocks per game. Kinek started in all 30 games for the Mountain Hawks and immediately made an impact, and authored the best rebounding effort in Patriot League history with 22 against Bucknell on Feb. 20.
The Patriot League's first expansion since the 2001-02 season also brings about change to the basketball tournament format. All 10 teams will qualify for the bracket that will once again take place entirely at campus sites. The first round is set for Tuesday, March 4, when the No. 7 seed hosts No. 10 and No. 8 entertains No. 9. The two winners will advance to the quarterfinal round on Thursday, March 6, hosted by the top four seeds. The semifinals will play out on Monday, March 10, at the two highest remaining seeds. The semifinal winners will square off for the Patriot League championship on Saturday, March 15, in a 6 p.m. tipoff on CBS Sports Network at the higher remaining seed.
In addition to airing the championship game, CBS Sports Network will also carry both Army-Navy regular season tilts during League play. Navy will host the first showdown with the Black Knights on Saturday, Jan. 11 at 1:30 p.m. in Annapolis, Md. The series continues on Saturday, Feb. 8, when Army welcomes the Mids to West Point, N.Y. for another 1:30 p.m. tipoff.
2013-14 also marks the first season of Patriot League Network, a free streaming platform that serves as an online home for a plethora of live events, features and highlight packages. Powered by Campus Insiders, PLN debuted in August and is on pace to stream several hundred live events, both athletic and non-athletic, during the 2013-14 academic year. All Patriot League regular season games not already airing on CBS Sports Network will be available for free anywhere on computers, smartphones and tablets, along with every home non-League contest as well.
While Geif was the lone Mid to earn preseason All-League recognition, the truth is Navy (21-12, 11-3 Patriot League in 2012-13) is way deeper than a one-player show. The Mids didn't graduate a single senior last spring, and bring back seven of their top scorers. While Geif earned All-Tournament honors last season and received the bulk of attention from defenses, Navy possesses a deep lineup comprised of fellow senior Alix Membreno (11.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.5 spg), who garnered Tournament MVP accolades, and senior Kara Pollinger (10.6 ppg, 3.7 apg, 1.4 spg), who netted a championship game-record 24 points in last season's 72-53 trophy-capturing win over Holy Cross. The Mids' current three-year streak of titles is one shy of Holy Cross' run of four consecutive championships from 1998-01, a feat they will look to equal in March. Stefanie Pemper enters her sixth season in Annapolis, Md., having accrued 92 victories in her previous five seasons. Navy is an incredible 11-2 in the League Tournament during her tenure, and is the only program to log at least one win in each of the last five postseason fields.
For as much success as Army enjoyed during a 22-9 regular season that boasted a season sweep of Navy, an 11-3 Patriot League record and the League Tournament's No. 1 seed, the Black Knights saw their NCAA hopes dashed with a quarterfinal loss to eighth-seeded Colgate on their home floor before the campaign ended in a 55-46 loss at Fordham in the WNIT's first round. While Minato and senior guard/forward combo Jen Hazlett (9.7 ppg, 5.4 rpg) are a potent returning combination, Army will have to replace 2012-13 Defensive Player of the Year Anna Simmers, who led the team with 13.7 points while dishing a second-best 67 assists and collecting 41 steals, third highest on the squad. Up front Army boasts junior 6-foot-1 forward Olivia Schretzman (8.6 ppg, 7.2 rpg) and 6-2 sophomore forward/center Aimee Oertner, who is coming off an All-Rookie season averaging 6.9 points and 6.8 rebounds with 81 blocks, the 10th-highest single-season total in League history. Dave Magarity enters his eighth season on the West Point sidelines and 31st overall.
It's a season of transition for Boston University (24-6, 13-2 America East), which prepares to embark on its first season in the Patriot League. The Terriers were barred from conference tournament play last season and a chance at an automatic qualifier to the NCAA Tournament, but they earned their way into the postseason with their fourth trip to the WNIT in five years. Last season marked the second time in the last five years the Terriers have set a program record for winning percentage. Senior forward Whitney Turner, who averaged 5.3 points and 6.3 rebounds in 2012-13, joins Agboola as a returning starter. The Terriers' first option off the bench last year was senior guard Danielle Callahan (7.7 ppg, 37.4 3FG%), who looks to break into the team's starting five. Kelly Greenburg, who was an assistant at Holy Cross for several years in the 1990s, enters her 10th season as Terrier head coach. BU has averaged nearly 20 wins a year under her guidance.
Following its second consecutive appearance in the League title game, Holy Cross (18-14, 8-6) is looking to fully realize a return to championship form in 2013-14. Smith heads up a Crusader team that returns four of its top five scorers from last season, but the one player not returning will be sorely missed. Amy Lepley missed the season's first nine games due to injury but started the last 23 and averaged 11.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per contest. Brisje Malone (9.4 ppg, 5.0 apg) developed into one of the League's best ball distributors, while 6-foot sophomore forward Raquel Scott tied for the team lead with 5.3 rebounds per game during her rookie campaign. The Crusaders battled injuries and illness a varying points last season, with only three regulars seeing action in all 32 games.
Following a fifth-place finish and a quarterfinal round exit, Lehigh (14-16, 6-8) is looking to return to the championship form that brought it back-to-back League crowns in 2009 and 2010. The good news for the Mountain Hawks is they return their top two scorers from last season. Junior guard-forward combo Katie O'Reilly (8.0 ppg, 4.4 rpg) helps support Kinek's offensive pop, while senior point guard Hilary Weaver (6.4 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 3.2 apg) is expected to run the offense once more. 2012-13 was an up-and-down season for Lehigh, which won four games in a row twice but also endured a five-game skid during the first half of League play that forced it to play catchup down the stretch. Sue Troyan, entering her 19th season as head coach, is 14 wins shy of 300 for her career.
Another team looking to bounce back off an early tournament exit is American (15-14, 8-6), which enters a new era in 2013-14. Following an incredibly successful 10-year tenure on the coaching staff at Marist, new head coach Megan Gebbia inherits a program that is just two years removed from a League championship game appearance in 2011. Gebbia, who spent the last seven seasons as associate head coach of the Red Foxes, was a part of nine MAAC championship squads. Boasting a potent backcourt combination of senior Alexis Dobbs (11.0 ppg, 3.9 apg, 2.0 spg) and junior Jen Dumiak (10.9 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.8 apg), the Eagles will also try to develop a presence up front after the graduation of Stephanie Anya (5.0 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.0 bpg). American will lean on its four seniors for leadership and loses only two letterwinners from a year ago.
Bucknell (15-16, 5-9) was one of the League's biggest surprises in 2012-13. While the Bison added just two wins in League play from 2011-12, they showed a 10-win improvement overall and started 4-1 in the League before a February swoon forced Bucknell to claw its way to the League Tournament's No. 6 seed. One of the reasons for Bucknell's overall resurgence was Aaron Roussell, who enters his second season as the head coach in Lewisburg, Pa., fresh off being named a finalist for the Maggie Dixon Division I Rookie Coach of the Year Award. A second reason for the Bison's competitiveness last year was the depth of their senior class, which led them to a semifinal appearance in the League Tournament before falling at eventual champion Navy. Senior guard Shelby Romine (13.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 3.7 apg) and junior forward Audrey Dotson (11.8 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.4 bpg) pace the Bison, who lose a pair of starters and six letterwinners.
Loyola Maryland (12-18, 7-11 MAAC) begins a new era in 2013-14 in a variety of ways. First, the Greyhounds join Boston University as one of the Patriot League's newcomers. Ninth-year head coach Joe Logan, himself a Loyola grad, will oversee the program's transition into its new home. Second, like Bucknell, the Greyhounds have to contend with the departure of three starters. Junior guard Kara Marshall (7.5 ppg, 2.3 rpg) is the top returning scorer and saw plenty of action a season ago with 24 starts and appearances in all 30 games. Senior guard Nicole Krusen (6.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg) helps provide leadership in the backcourt, while sophomores center Tiffany Padgett (4.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg) and guard Diana Logan (4.9 ppg) were both MAAC All-Rookie selections a year ago. Loyola will be tested right off the bat with its season opener at Maryland on Nov. 10 and its first Patriot League contest at Navy on Jan. 2.
Despite its 4-10 record in the League, Lafayette (11-19) showed signs of improvement during the course of the season. Four of the Leopards' League losses came by eight points or less, including a 60-52 defeat in overtime to Navy in Easton, Pa., in their second regular-season meeting, followed by a 59-55 loss, again in overtime, in the quarterfinals of the Patriot League Tournament. They also won three straight games in the middle of the League schedule over Lehigh, Colgate and American, giving fans a glimpse of the potential this crop of Leopards contains. With all five starters back, Lafayette is looking to jump into the top half of the League. Senior center Danielle Fiacco (10.5 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 3.5 bpg) and junior forward Emily Homan (10.9 ppg, 7.1 rpg) are one of the most daunting frontcourts in the League, and sophomore guard Jamie O'Hare (6.3 ppg, 2.4 apg) is fresh off an All-Rookie campaign. Head coach Dianne Nolan enters her fourth season on the Lafayette sidelines.
Colgate (10-21, 3-11) is a prime example of a team that started to find its footing just as tournament time was coming around last season. The Raiders weathered an 0-9 start to their League slate (with six of those losses by single digits) before capturing three of their last five. A four-point win over Army helped signal a turnaround, and when Colgate met the Black Knights again in the Patriot League Tournament 15 days later, it became just the second No. 8 seed to knock off the No. 1 in the quarterfinals in League Tournament history. Eleven different players earned a start for head coach Nicci Hays Fort, who begins her third season in Hamilton, N.Y. She looks forward to having senior guard Missy Repoli (7.6 ppg, 3.5 rpg) back in the lineup after the latter missed the final 11 games because of injury. Repoli was the team's leading scorer through the first half of the season.
Bucknell visits Pittsburgh on Friday, Nov. 8, at 11 a.m. to officially drop the curtain on the 2013-14 campaign. Six other teams play their season openers that day, with Navy visiting Towson at 5 p.m. and Boston University hosting Northeastern at 6 p.m. The remaining four contests are set for 7 p.m. tips with Colgate going to Cornell, Holy Cross hosting Dartmouth, Lehigh visiting Niagara and Lafayette home for Rider.
Three teams open a bit later. In addition to Loyola visiting Maryland on Sunday, Nov. 10, at 2 p.m., Army goes to St. Francis Brooklyn on Monday, Nov. 11, at 7 p.m., and American hosts Maryland-Eastern Shore Tuesday, Nov. 12, at 7 p.m.
The double round-robin League schedule opens on Thursday, Jan. 2, with five 7 p.m. tipoffs. Loyola's visit to Navy and Boston University's trek to Holy Cross serve as the newcomers' official welcome to the League. Other contests that night include Bucknell going to American, Lehigh entertaining Colgate and Lafayette on the road at Army.
2013-14 Patriot League Women's Basketball Preseason Poll
1. Navy - 157 points (14 first-place votes)
2. Army - 133 (3)
3. Boston U. - 128 (3)
4. Holy Cross - 112
5. Lehigh - 97
6. American - 87
7. Bucknell - 62
8. Loyola (Md.) - 54
9. Lafayette - 37
10. Colgate - 33
Kelsey Minato, Army, So., G
Rashidat Agboola, Boston U., Sr., F
Alex Smith, Holy Cross, Sr., G
Kerry Kinek, Lehigh, So., F
Jade Geif, Navy, Sr., F
Preseason Player of the Year - Jade Geif, Navy, Sr., F