After falling in last year's Patriot League championship game, Alex Smith and Holy Cross are hoping to go one step further in 2012-13.
Nov. 8, 2012
CENTER VALLEY, Pa. — Coming off perhaps its most successful season in history, the Patriot League is set to get the 2012-13 season underway Friday with six teams in action.
Three teams went to the postseason for the first time in League history. Navy won the League tournament and earned the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, while American qualified for the WNIT and Holy Cross was invited to the WBI.
The Crusaders posted a victory over New Hampshire in the WBI’s first round, giving the League its first postseason win since 1991.
Though the slate is wiped clean for 2012-13, last season’s success does raise the bar for the League as a whole.
Navy captured its first League title in 2011, and took it a step further by successfully defending that championship last year. Graduating just one player and starter from last year’s team, the Mids feature four returning starters, including two-time reigning League Tournament MVP Jade Geif.
Patriot League Women's Basketball Quick Hits
• Eight of the Patriot League’s top 10 scorers from last year are set to return in 2012-13, including everybody in the top five. Army senior Anna Simmers led all players a year ago averaging 14.8 points per game.
• American became the first squad in the current eight-team configuration to post a perfect 14-0 League record. The Eagles have won 15 straight and 19 of their last 20 regular season League showdowns dating back to the 2010-11 season.
• Navy junior Jade Geif has been named the Preseason Player of the Year for the second straight time by the League’s eight head coaches.
• Lafayette’s Danielle Fiacco shattered the League’s single-season record for blocks, setting the new standard with 112, 17 ahead of the old mark. The 6-foot-7 center enters her junior campaign eighth on the League’s rejections chart with 183.
• Last season marked the first time in which the two road teams both won their semifinal contests in the Patriot League Tournament. Third-seeded Navy won at No. 2 Lehigh, while No. 5 Holy Cross upended top seed American.
• Aaron Roussell was named the head coach at Bucknell in the spring. He comes to Lewisburg, Pa., after a highly successful eight-year stint at the University of Chicago in which he posted a 161-50 mark with four NCAA Tournament appearances, three trips to the Sweet Sixteen and one to the Elite Eight.
• Two seniors are closing in on the 1,000-point mark in Holy Cross’ Amy Lepley (952) and Colgate’s Jhazmine Lynch (910). Three juniors could threaten the list this season, including Holy Cross’ Alex Smith (745), Bucknell’s Shelby Romine (679) and Navy’s Jade Geif (663).
Patriot League Notebook
NAVY CHOSEN TO MAKE IT THREE STRAIGHT
The head coaches and sports information directors named two-time defending Patriot League champion Navy as the favorite in 2012-13 in late October. The Mids, led by Preseason Player of the Year junior Jade Geif, are seeking to do something no League squad has done in over a decade - win three straight titles. The first and only program to do it is Holy Cross, which captured four straight championships from 1997-98 to 2000-01. Navy returns four starters from a year ago, all of whom are in their junior seasons. Navy topped the preseason poll with 89 points and eight first-place ballots.
AMERICAN SETS SIGHTS ON TITLE RUN
Navy is sure to have stiff competition in the League this season. American, which has won 19 of 20 regular season League games and became the first to post a perfect 14-0 record last year, earned 85 points with six first-places votes in the preseason poll. Matt Corkery enters his fifth season in the nation’s capital and boasts the League’s highest winning percentages not only in League play (46-10, .821) but overall as well (86-39, .688). The Eagles will be led by junior guard and reigning Scholar-Athlete of the Year Alexis Dobbs in the back court and senior center Stephanie Anya, whose 88 career blocks are tied for 19th in League history.
CRUSADERS CRAVE ANOTHER SHOT
Holy Cross hadn’t been to the title game of the Patriot League Tournament since a four-year run from 2005-08, but the Crusaders made it back last season and nearly took home the trophy before falling 57-48 at Navy in the championship. Buoyed by a pair of preseason All-League honorees in senior Amy Lepley and junior Alex Smith, Holy Cross hopes to build on a 2011-12 campaign that ended in the quarterfinals of the WBI. Bill Gibbons enters his 29th season on the sidelines in Worcester, Mass. The Crusaders took third in the poll with 70 points and one first-place vote.
SIMMERS LEADS ARMY’S MARCH
2011-12 was a coming out party for Army guard Anna Simmers, who finished her junior campaign leading the Patriot League in scoring at 14.8 points per outing. Now she’s looking for bigger and better things at West Point, as the Black Knights seek their first League crown since the dream 2005-06 season. Simmers is part of a formidable 1-2 punch with junior teammate Jen Hazlett, who finished fourth in the League averaging 12.9 points per game a season ago. Hazlett accounted for the League’s highest single-season point total last year with 30 points against Colgate, while Simmers’ 28 against Lehigh were second.
FIACCO RAISES THE BLOCKING BAR
Nobody had reached 100 blocks in a single season in League history until Lafayette center Danielle Fiacco did it in 2011-12. And she didn’t just stop there, as she finished with a record-smashing 112 for the season. The 6-foot-7 center enters her junior campaign eighth on the League’s blocks charts with 183, and if she has an “average” for her (91), she’ll rocket into the top three on the career list by March. Fiacco’s effectiveness is increased by the presence of last season’s Rookie of the Year Emily Homan, herself a force at power forward.
LYNCH LOOKS FOR BIG SEASON
Colgate’s Jhazmine Lynch made history as the program’s first Rookie of the Year in 2010. After a junior season in which her playing time was mitigated somewhat in November and December by injury, the senior guard is ready to lead the Raiders toward a League championship one more time. Lynch has plenty of help in the back court in sophomore guards Missy Repoli and Mariah Jones. Colgate’s 2011-12 campaign was really a tale of two seasons, as it went 8-12 in its last 20 after a season-opening 10-game skid under first-year head coach Nicci Hays Fort. But the Raiders were in contention for as high as the fifth seed in the League tournament at the end of the regular season, which would’ve been their highest position in six years.
The eight Patriot League teams will have plenty of opportunities to take on tough competition during the course of the non-League slate in the first nine weeks of the season. Some of the notable contests include: Lehigh at California (Nov. 9); Bucknell at Xavier (Nov. 10); Lafayette at Seton Hall (Nov. 11); Holy Cross hosting Boston College (Nov. 13); Colgate at St. Bonaventure (Nov. 16); Lafayette at Penn State (Nov. 18); American visiting Maryland (Nov. 21); Colgate at Connecticut (Nov. 28); Lehigh at Villanova (Nov. 29); Lafayette entertaining Pittsburgh (Dec. 1); Lafayette at Ohio State (Dec. 9); Navy heading to Marquette (Dec. 19); Holy Cross at Florida (Dec. 28); and Navy visiting Princeton (Jan. 8).
AMERICAN The Eagles will open with four consecutive road games ... The season starts Saturday with American traveling to Western Michigan, a team it defeated 77-52 right before League play a season ago ... American travels to Oakland Monday for a 6:30 p.m. tip before returning home for a nine-day layoff before taking the short trip to Maryland Nov. 21 ... UMKC comes to the nation’s capital Nov. 27 for American’s home opener ... The Eagles have just five home games at Bender Arena during the non-League schedule, including two in January on the eve of League play.
ARMY The Black Knights open 2012-13 at Wagner Friday night, and will play their first game at West Point Monday evening against St. Francis (N.Y.) ... Army has seven games on the slate in November, including a contest at academy rival Air Force ... Head coach Dave Magarity, now in his 30th season overall as a head coach, is entering his seventh at West Point with 99 victories leading the Black Knights.
BUCKNELL It’s a clean slate for Bucknell with first-year head coach Aaron Roussell on the sidelines ... The Bison are looking ahead after posting a 5-25 mark last season with a 3-11 slate in Patriot League play ... Senior forward Lindsay Horbatuck enters the season with 480 career rebounds, and she is very likely to become the 71st player in League annals with 500 boards ... Junior guard Shelby Romine averaged 10.0 points per game while shooting a League-leading 78.8 percent from the foul line.
COLGATE The Raiders enter their second season with head coach Nicci Hays Fort on the sidelines ... Senior guard Jhazmine Lynch was second in the League in scoring in 2011-12 averaging 13.5 points per game ... She averaged 4.6 rebounds, doled out 2.6 assists and had 1.9 steals per contest while shooting 77 percent from the charity stripe ... Colgate will look to replace the graduated Tricia Oakes, who led the League in field goal shooting (.527) a year ago ... She averaged 10.8 points per game.
HOLY CROSS The Crusaders return each of their top five scorers from last season, led by Amy Lepley (13.4 ppg) and Alex Smith (12.5) ... Emily Parker earned All-Rookie honors after pitching in 10.1 points and 6.0 rebounds per game last year ... The Crusaders advanced to the Patriot League title match for the 16th time in school history last season ... Holy Cross’ season ended at the hands of Manhattan in the WBI Quarterfinals a year ago ... The two programs will match up again Dec. 1 in Riverdale, N.Y. ... That will kick off a stretch of eight straight on the road that will last into early January.
LAFAYETTE The Leopards have perhaps the most notable names on their non-League schedule ... Following the opener Friday against Loyola Chicago, they visit Seton Hall Sunday before hosting Villanova and taking the short drive west to visit Penn State ... The December slate features consecutive games with Pittsburgh, Saint Joseph’s and Ohio State ... Lafayette boasts a young but talented front court made up of junior center Danielle Fiacco and last season’s Rookie of the Year Emily Homan ... The two combined for over 22 points and 15 rebounds per game last season ... Four of the team’s top five scorers are back.
LEHIGH The Mountain Hawks open the season with a trip out west to battle California Friday before returning east to visit St. Peter’s next week ... Lehigh will open the home schedule Nov. 20 against La Salle ... Head coach Sue Troyan enters her 18th season at the helm in Bethlehem ... Her .546 winning percentage overall is fifth among the League’s active head coaches, while her 274 victories are third all-time in League annals and second among the actives behind Holy Cross’ Bill Gibbons ... Lehigh will try to replace the front court scoring of Alexa Williams (12.1 ppg, 8.8 rpg) and Emily Gratch (11.9, 6.4), the team’s two leading scorers and rebounders from 2011-12 ... Both graduated in the spring.
NAVY The Patriot League will have to contend with a Navy squad that returns four starters from last year’s League title squad ... All four are juniors, and all four members of that class now own two championship rings ... The Mids will be the first team to officially open the 2012-13 campaign for the League when they visit Iona Friday at 11 a.m. ... Navy will finish a quick two-game season-opening road trip Sunday with a 2 p.m. tip at Stony Brook ... The Mids’ endurance will be tested early with three games in four days, with two in Houston, Texas as part of the Husky Classic before visiting Air Force ... Navy’s Jan. 13 contest with Lafayette will be televised nationally on CBS Sports Network.