2011-12 Women's Basketball Outlook
Nov. 10, 2011
The 2010-11 women's basketball season was marked by transition, with head coach Dianne Nolan taking the reins and steering the program to a five-win improvement from the previous campaign. This season, the goal is to continue the upward trend as Lafayette competes for the program's first Patriot League Championship.
2011-12 will not be free of transition, however, as the Leopards look to replace LaKeisha Wright '11, a two-time All-Patriot League standout and the program's sixth all-time leading scorer (1,316 career points).
"You don't replace someone like LaKeisha Wright with one player. You have to change your style to fit the players that you have," said Nolan. "We will have more depth and stronger inside/outside combinations this season. The scoring will be a more balanced effort."
But despite losing their top three scorers from last season--2011 graduates Wright, Lauren Jackson and Elizabeth Virgin--Nolan and her staff have revamped and reloaded the Leopards for the upcoming season. Five highly-touted recruits will join a roster of nine returning players for the 40th season of women's basketball on College Hill, looking to take the program to unprecedented heights.
Senior co-captain Melissa Downey enters her third campaign running the point for the Maroon and White. Downey dished out a team-best 2.3 assists per game last season, ranking among the top 10 in the Patriot League.
"Missy has improved as a player and is up to the challenge of leading this team," said Nolan.
Downey will be spelled by freshmen Brya Freeland and Maddie Peabody. Freeland, who was ranked among the top 100 high school point guards in the nation by ESPN, brings a slashing, penetrating style to the position, while Peabody, an all-state performer from Louisville, Ky., is more of a traditional distributor. Both rookies will also see time at shooting guard while Downey is running the point.
Sophomore Madeline Fahan and junior Samantha Jordan will flank Downey on the wings. Fahan, who averaged 4.3 points and 3.6 rebounds per game in her freshman year, is a shooting guard/small forward hybrid player who can drive to the hoop and stretch defenses with her perimeter shooting game.
Jordan is one of the Leopards' best at getting to the rim and creating her own shot. Also a key component to the rebounding effort, she averaged 4.7 points and 3.9 boards per contest in 2010-11, including a double-double (11 points, 11 rebounds) in the Jan. 26 win over Army.
"I rely on wing players for many things," added Nolan. "Maddie and Sam can do different things offensively and both of them will be pivotal to our defense and rebounding."
Nolan will also be able to look to her bench to fill a multitude of needs on the wings this season. Junior Alicia Manning knocked down 27 three-pointers last season and will be joined on the roster by fellow sharpshooter Kristi Lianza, a freshman from Austin, Texas. The duo aims to replace Jackson's presence behind the arc and penchant for hitting big shots.
"Alicia has improved her handle and will be more versatile offensive weapon and a stronger defensive presence this season," said Nolan. "She and Kristi both have deep range and possess strong basketball IQs. I can count on them to make smart decisions and take good looks from beyond the arc."
Few players can provide a spark like junior Ashley Springer, who posted 2.2 points, 1.1 rebounds and 1.0 assists in 11.0 minutes of action per game last season. Freshman Linnel Macklin, who averaged 20 points per game as an All-County player at Bowie (Md.) High School, will look to fill a similar role in her inaugural campaign on College Hill.
"Ashley and Linnel can both create off the dribble," Nolan said. "They bring energy to the court and can change the momentum of a game."
Ask any coach in the Patriot League--as well as several others around the country--about the Lafayette frontcourt, and the conversation starts immediately with sophomore Danielle Fiacco. The Leopards' 6-7 center was a force in her freshman season, averaging 6.6 points and 8.0 rebounds per contest before a late-January elbow injury prematurely ended her campaign. A Patriot League All-Rookie Team honoree, Fiacco blocked 71 shots in 21 games last season, the second-highest single-season total in Lafayette history.
"Danielle is a game-changer for us. She cleans up a lot of messes with defense and rebounding," Nolan said, "and the amount of good looks--layups--that our opponents have to pass up is just incredible. Her injury was a slight setback in terms of her development as an all-around player, but she is 100-percent healthy and ready to return to action."
One of the more versatile post players at Nolan's disposal is senior co-captain Sarah McGorry. McGorry averaged 5.5 points and 5.7 rebounds per game last season. She was also voted by her teammates as the inaugural Pat Fisher "Hold the Rope" Award recipient in recognition of her commitment to the program.
"In addition to being a tenacious defender and rebounder, Sarah has expanded her game offensively. She will stretch defenses with her ability to score from the perimeter," said Nolan of the co-captain.
Freshman Emily Homan will be a new weapon down low for the Leopards. A former All-State performer out of Upper Darby, Pa., the 6-3 forward is the all-time leading scorer at Delaware County Christian High School.
"Emily's quickness and repertoire of post moves make her one of our biggest offensive threats under the basket," said Nolan. "She is a perfect complement to our perimeter players."
Aside from her five incoming freshmen, Nolan regains a valuable piece missing from the roster last season in senior co-captain Alexandra Serowoky. Serowoky, who sat out for all of the 2010-11 season due to injury after missing parts of both her freshman and sophomore seasons with knee trouble, returns to take the court for her final campaign on College Hill.
"Alex has a strong desire to finish her career on the hardwood," Nolan said. "She has worked very hard to come back and will be ready to go."
Returning for her sophomore season is Kristan Liddle, who logged 8.7 minutes of action per game last season. She will once again play important minutes spelling the Leopards' starters in the post
"Kristan is one of our most improved players," said Nolan of the Irvine, Calif. native. "She came into preseason with a new-found intensity and is ready to make a bigger impact this season."
The Leopards will be without the services of sophomore Kelly Loughney, who will sit out the 2011-12 season due to NCAA rules after transferring to Lafayette from New York University, where she was an All-University Athletic Association Honorable Mention as a freshman. Though she is not eligible to suit up for the Leopards this season, Loughney will be allowed to practice with the team and sit on the bench during home contests.
"It will be beneficial for Kelly to learn our style of play and to integrate herself as a member of our team next season," Nolan said. "This transition period will allow her to make an immediate impact on the court as a junior."
Opponents representing the Big East and Atlantic Coast Conferences highlight the 2011-12 schedule, which features 12 games within the familiar confines of Kirby Sports Center.
In addition to the 14-game Patriot League slate, the Leopards will meet nationally-prominent squads Syracuse, Maryland and Pittsburgh as well as regional powers such as reigning Ivy League champion Princeton and 2011 WNIT participants Saint Joseph's and Monmouth
"Our non-conference schedule will challenge us and prepare us for Patriot League play," said Nolan. "We look forward to representing Lafayette College and the Patriot League against teams from some of the nation's top conferences."
The season opens at Rider on Nov. 11, with the home opener set for Nov. 14 against Princeton. The Leopards begin league action at home on Jan. 7 against defending Patriot League champion Navy. The Patriot Tournament will be held from March 1-10 at campus sites, with the higher seed serving as host for each game. The Patriot League champion, which will be determined on March 10 at 6 p.m. on the CBS Sports Network, earns the League's automatic bid to the 2012 NCAA Tournament.