Patriot League Women's Basketball Weekend Preview - 12.2.11

PATRIOTLEAGUEDOTORG Stephanie Anya and American host nationally-ranked Maryland Sunday afternoon at Bender Arena.
Stephanie Anya and American host nationally-ranked Maryland Sunday afternoon at Bender Arena.

Dec. 2, 2011

CENTER VALLEY, Pa. — The highest profile matchup of the weekend featuring a Patriot League team happens Sunday, when American hosts No. 6/7 Maryland at Bender Arena for a 1 p.m. tip. It will be the toughest test of the season for the Eagles, who are looking to rebound after Wednesday’s 39-37 overtime loss to Maryland-Eastern Shore that snapped their four-game win streak.

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There are plenty of other games on the docket this weekend as well. Army and Navy will be in action looking to start their own winning streaks. The Black Knights, who had their four-game win streak snapped in a loss last Sunday at Columbia, got back into the win column with Thursday’s 55-51 victory over Hawaii. Jen Hazlett logged the first double-double of her career and erupted to score all of her game-high 19 points in the second half. The Mids have been idle since Monday’s 71-59 victory over Academy rival Air Force in front of a passionate crowd of over 3,000. They’ll look to ride that momentum through the Navy Classic, which tips off Friday with a 6 p.m. matchup against Houston Baptist and concludes Saturday against Maine.

There are only two games on Friday’s docket. In addition to Navy’s tilt with Houston Baptist, Colgate returns home from its three-game California swing with a 6 p.m. tip against Niagara.

The schedule picks up intensity Saturday with six games. Lehigh starts the day looking to bounce back from Wednesday’s overtime loss to Villanova when it visits Valparaiso for a 1:05 p.m. start. Holy Cross visits New Hampshire at 2 p.m. with head coach Bill Gibbons sitting on 499 career wins. Army will try to win its second in a row when it visits Loyola (Md.) at 2 p.m., while Bucknell visits NJIT for a 2 p.m. tip. Lafayette hosts Manhattan at 3 p.m., leading up to Navy’s 6 p.m. matchup against Maine.

In addition to American-Maryland on Sunday, Colgate will visit Canisius at 2:45 p.m. Monday’s slate features just one game, with Lehigh hosting Loyola (Md.) at 7 p.m. at Stabler Arena.

Patriot League Notebook

Lehigh’s Alexa Williams has powered the Mountain Hawks to their League-leading 324 total rebounds this season. The senior stands second in the League averaging 9.8 boards per game, and she’s moved up several slots on the League’s all-time rebounds chart. After starting the season in 61st place, Williams now has 594 rebounds and has risen to 45th. One of two senior co-captains for the Mountain Hawks, Williams has been running neck-and-neck with Lafayette’s Danielle Fiacco for the League lead in rebounding, which should make for an interesting matchup when the rivals meet twice during League play.

Army sophomore Jen Hazlett put together another stellar performance in helping the Black Knights take a 55-51 victory over visiting Hawaii Thursday night at Christl Arena. She scored a game-high 19 points, all of which game in the second half that helped Army overcome a seven-point halftime deficit. Hazlett had plenty of help too, as Molly Yardley poured in 16 points and Anna Simmers contributed 11 off the bench, helping give head coach Dave Magarity his 404th career victory and 91st on the Army sidelines.

Holy Cross head coach Bill Gibbons secured the 499th victory of his career Sunday in the Crusaders’ 73-68 victory at Harvard, but the march to No. 500 was stalled temporarily in Wednesday’s 63-54 loss at Central Connecticut. It’s inevitable at this point that Gibbons will reach the 500-win plateau; it’s just a question of when. It could happen Saturday, when Holy Cross visits New Hampshire for a 2 p.m. tip. Gibbons looks to join Lafayette’s Dianne Nolan as the only two League coaches with at least 500 career victories. All of Gibbons’ victories have come while coaching at Holy Cross, while Nolan is in her second season guiding the Leopards.

Last season the Patriot League was dominated by a tremendously talented group of seniors who led just about every major statistical category. Ten of the 11 members of last season’s All-League team were seniors, so it was known heading into 2011-12 that there’d be new names leading the way for their teams. Entering this weekend’s games, the top six student-athletes in the League standings in scoring are either sophomores or juniors. Colgate junior Jhazmine Lynch leads the way averaging nearly 16 points per game, while Lafayette sophomore Danielle Fiacco is second at 14.4 ppg. Army sophomore Jen Hazlett is third at just under 14 per game, while Navy sophomore Jade Geif, Holy Cross sophomore Alex Smith and Holy Cross junior Amy Lepley round out the list of six. Of the 12 student-athletes averaging at least 10 points per game, only three are seniors.

American hosts No. 6/7 Maryland Sunday at Bender Arena at 1 p.m., and the game stacks up as the Eagles’ toughest test of the season. It marks the fourth time a League team will battle a squad in the Associated Press Top 25 and the third instance against a club in the ESPN/USA Today national poll. Last month Holy Cross took on Connecticut, which was ranked fourth in both national polls at the time, while Lehigh visited No. 13/13 Rutgers right before Thanksgiving. Colgate battled UCLA, then ranked 25th in the AP poll, last weekend.

It was bound to happen at some point, and Bucknell freshman Amy Zehner finally accomplished it nearly two weeks ago when she was named to both the Patriot League Anaconda Player and Rookie of the Week awards after averaging 22.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.0 blocks, 3.0 steals and 2.5 assists per game last week for the Bison. Her 25-point outburst against Youngstown State was the largest point total by a Patriot Leaguer this season, and she became the eighth freshman in Bucknell history to record back-to-back games of at least 20 points when she scored 20 last Saturday night at Buffalo.

Jen Hazlett scored a career-high 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting to lead Army to its 59-43 win at St. Francis (N.Y.) Nov. 16, delivering head coach Dave Magarity the 400th victory of his career, which has spanned three decades and now approaches 100 wins at West Point. Army led by five at the half after shooting 57 percent from the floor, and pulled away in the second half as the team collected 21 bucks and 17 assists. Magarity is now the third coach in the League with at least 400 career victories, joining Lafayette’s Dianne Nolan and Bill Gibbons of Holy Cross.

Two other League coaches are sitting near big victory milestones behind Bill Gibbons. Navy’s Stefanie Pemper sits with 290 career victories, making 300 a very realistic possibility this season, following Monday’s 71-59 victory over Air Force. Bucknell’s Kathy Fedorjaka, who recorded win No. 200 as Bison head coach last season, has 275 overall wins.

With 94 points and 11 first-place votes, American topped the 2011-12 Patriot League Preseason Women’s Basketball Poll. The Eagles will aim to capture their first League crown in program history after reaching the title game in each of the last two seasons. American finished ahead of second-place Lehigh, which totaled 83 points and three first-place votes. Defending League champion Navy took third with 74 points and the last two remaining first-place ballots. Bucknell finished fourth in the poll, the same position in which the Bison ended the regular season a year ago. They collected 58 points, followed by Holy Cross in fifth with 52. Rounding out the poll were Lafayette (38 points), Army (26) and Colgate (23).

Navy’s Jade Geif got better and better as the 2010-11 season went on, and the hardware began adding up quickly. She was named Patriot League Rookie of the Year at the end of the regular season and added Patriot League Tournament Most Valuable Player honors after helping lead the Midshipmen to their first League crown in program history. Geif was recognized again by the League’s eight head coaches and women’s basketball sports information directors with the Preseason Player of the Year honor and a spot on the Preseason All-League team. In nearly 30 minutes per game a season ago, Geif was second in the League averaging 7.9 rebounds per game and is Navy’s top returning scorer (9.6 ppg). Geif became the first player named Rookie of the Year and Tournament MVP in the same season since Bethany O’Dell of Holy Cross in 2007.

Ten of the 11 players named First- or Second-Team All-Patriot League a year ago graduated in the spring. The one who remains is American senior Lisa Strack, who was named to the Preseason All-League Team last month and is expected to contribute mightily to the Eagles this season. One of three seniors named to the Preseason All-League squad, Strack is the League’s second-highest returning scorer after averaging 11.6 points per game last season. She was also her team’s best distributor, averaging 3.4 assists per game, placing her fourth in the League.

Three of the six players to garner a place on the Preseason All-League team are sophomores. Bucknell’s Shelby Romine looks to build on a a remarkable freshman campaign in which she led all League rookies in scoring with 13.5 points per game. In addition to being the League’s top scorer back, she boasts the highest assist-per-game average (3.6) of any returning player. Holy Cross’ Alex Smith was also named to the Preseason All-League team after averaging 11.1 points and 3.4 assists per game for the Crusaders, who are trying to improve on their 10-20 mark and 6-8 showing in the League from a year ago.

The Patriot League features one new face on the sidelines in 2011-12, with Nicci Hays Fort entering her first season at Colgate. Entering the season with over a decade of coaching experience, Hays Fort comes to Hamilton, N.Y., after serving as the associate head coach on Doug Bruno’s staff at DePaul. Coincidentally, one of Hays Fort’s last contests coaching the Blue Demons was in the first round of last year’s NCAA Tournament, when DePaul faced off with Navy. The Raiders look to rebound from a 7-22 showing and a 2-12 mark in the League last season, and boast the returns of junior Jhazmine Lynch, the 2010 Patriot League Rookie of the Year, along with senior Tricia Oakes and a pair of freshmen in Mariah Jones and Kelly Reid who are immediately contributing.

Three Patriot League contests are scheduled to be televised on CBS Sports Network, with two featuring one of the most vaunted rivalry in intercollegiate athletics. Both regular season contests between Army and Navy will be shown on the network, with the Jan. 14 game hailing from Alumni Hall in Annapolis, Md., and the Feb. 11 contest at Christl Arena at West Point, N.Y. Both games will tip at 12 p.m. CBS Sports Network will also televise the Patriot League championship on Saturday, March 10, 2012 at 6 p.m.

Team Notebooks

AMERICAN saw its four-game win streak snapped in a 39-37 overtime loss at home to Maryland Eastern Shore Wednesday night ... The Eagles trailed by as many as nine in the second half but used a 10-0 run to take a 26-25 lead with 9:32 left after a 3-pointer by Ti’Asia McGeorge ... The Eagles led by three entering the final minute, but UMES knocked down a trey with 58 seconds left ... Alexis Dobbs missed a 3 with 35 seconds left and UMES missed a field goal in the waning seconds to send the game to overtime ... Dobbs hit a jumper with 1:32 left in the extra session to bring American within 39-37, but Lisa Strack’s layup attempt with 46 seconds left was blocked ... Strack led the Eagles with nine points, eight rebounds and five assists ... American hosts No. 6/7 Maryland Sunday at 1 p.m. at Bender Arena and then is idle for a week before visiting Troy on Dec. 11.

ARMY Jen Hazlett continued her emergence as one of the Patriot League’s top offensive threats in 2011-12 as she scored a game-high 19 points in leading Army to a 55-51 victory over visiting Hawaii Thursday night at Christl Arena ... Hazlett scored all of her points in the second half, helping the Black Knights erase a 27-20 halftime deficit ... She grabbed 12 rebounds for her first career double-double ... Molly Yardley added 16 points with an assist, a block and a steal, while Anna Simmers scored 11 points in 26 minutes off the bench ... The Rainbow Wahine took a 48-47 lead with 3:45 remaining in the game, but Hazlett responded for Army with a 3-pointer to put the Black Knights up 50-48 ... After Hawaii went 1-for-2 from the foul line to pull within one, Hazlett hit a layup and Liz Benedict hit two free throws to help seal the win ... The Black Knights have won five of their last six and visit Loyola (Md.) Saturday at 2 p.m.

BUCKNELL collected 16 steals and forced 24 turnovers but the Bison fell 55-47 to visiting Canisius Wednesday night at Sojka Pavilion ... Alyssa Dunn had a team-high 13 points in 25 minutes off the bench, while Shelby Romine scored six points with four rebounds and Rachel Voss scored five points with a team-best seven boards ... The Bison, who never led in the game, whittled Canisius’ lead down to three on several occasions but could not complete the comeback in the second half ... Romine is up to averaging 9.1 points and 3.1 assists per game, providing solid play for the Bison in the backcourt ... Bucknell heads to NJIT Saturday at 2 p.m. and returns home to host Fordham Tuesday night before taking a 12-day break for final exams.

COLGATE The Raiders have been idle since Monday’s 75-73 overtime heartbreaker in San Diego ... Junior Jhazmine Lynch continues to shine, having taken over the League lead in scoring (15.8 ppg) ... Freshman Mariah Jones is the League’s 12th-leading scorer averaging 10.0 points per contest ... Senior Tricia Oakes is hitting on 49.1 percent of her attempts from the field, also tops in the Patriot League ... The Raiders have two games in three days, beginning with Friday’s 6 p.m. tipoff at home against Niagara ... Colgate then visits Canisius Sunday at 2:45 p.m. before taking a six-day layoff.

HOLY CROSS head coach Bill Gibbons has had to wait at least a few more days for career victory No. 500, as the Crusaders fell 63-54 at Central Connecticut Wednesday night ... Alex Smith led Holy Cross with 15 points and four assists, while Brisje Malone had 11 points with five rebounds ... The Crusaders trailed by two at halftime after hitting just nine first-half field goals, and finished the game only 2 of 15 on treys ... The Blue Devils used a 10-0 run in the second half to build a lead, and Holy Cross got as close as six in the final minute before Central Connecticut closed out the contest ... The Crusaders finish up their three-game swing away from home with Saturday’s 2 p.m. tip at New Hampshire ... Holy Cross will host Northeastern Wednesday night and then break for finals.

LAFAYETTE Emily Homan scored 13 points and Danielle Fiacco narrowly missed a double-double with nine points and 14 rebounds as Lafayette fell 49-39 in a defensive struggle at Penn ... The Leopards trailed 21-16 at the break and pulled within 33-32 on a 3-point play from Madeline Fahan with 7:44 on the clock, but the Quakers responded with a 12-3 run over the next four and a half minutes to effectively put the game away ... Lafayette shot 29.4 percent (15 of 51) from the floor and was 0 for 7 on 3-point attempts ... Fiacco now leads the League in rebounding (9.9 rpg), just a shade ahead of second-place Alexa Williams of Lehigh (9.8) ... She also leads the League with three double-doubles ... Head coach Dianne Nolan has made good use of her bench, as nine players are averaging in double figures in minutes while Fiacco leads the team with just over 28 minutes per contest ... The Leopards play the first of two straight games at home Saturday when they host Manhattan at 3 p.m. ... Lafayette will be hosting their National Girls and Women in Sports Day festivities during Saturday’s contest.

LEHIGH Kelly Peterson’s 3-pointer with two seconds left forced overtime, but Lehigh couldn’t keep the momentum going in the extra session in a 62-54 loss to Villanova at Stabler Arena Wednesday afternoon ... Sarah Pearce led the Mountain Hawks with 13 points, while Alexa Williams added eight points and tied a game-high with 13 rebounds ... Williams hit a pair of free throws 17 seconds into overtime, but they would account for the only Lehigh points of the extra session as it went 0 for 6 from the floor while Villanova ended the game on a 10-0 run ... Williams is up to second in the League in rebounding (9.8 rpg) and is six away from 600 for her career ... Over 3,200 fans were in attendance for Education Day Wednesday for the matchup with Villanova ... The Mountain Hawks visit Valparaiso Saturday at 1:05 p.m. before returning home to host Loyola (Md.) Monday night ... Monday’s contest begins a stretch of six straight games at home that lasts until the beginning of League play Jan. 7 when Lehigh entertains Holy Cross.

NAVY The Mids have been idle since Monday’s 71-59 victory over Air Force in Annapolis, Md. ... Navy continues its five-game home stand this weekend when it hosts Houston Baptist Friday night at 6 p.m. and Maine Saturday at 6 p.m. ... Both games are part of this year’s Navy Classic hosted at Alumni Hall ... Sophomore Jade Geif, last season’s Patriot League Rookie of the Year and Tournament MVP, is fourth in the League in scoring (13.2 ppg) and third in rebounding (8.8 rpg) ... She’s shooting 48.1 percent from the field, placing her third in the League, while her 2.6 assists per game are 10th ... After hosting the Navy Classic, the Mids welcome Siena Wednesday night and Princeton next Friday ... The Tigers have received votes in both national polls and are ranked No. 3 in the current Women’s Mid-Major Top 25.