Nov. 7, 2012
EASTON, Pa. – The Lafayette women’s basketball team is poised to make its mark in the Patriot League this season, looking to improve upon an 8-22 overall record in 2011. Finishing 2-12 in the regular season League standings and picked sixth in the Patriot League preseason polls, the Leopards will embrace the underdog role and aim to host a League playoff game.
“Our theme this year is first four,” head coach Dianne Nolan said. “We wear it on our wrist bracelets and really want to finish in the top four in our league and host that tournament game.”
Lafayette has not hosted a Patriot League tournament game since the 1997-98 season in which the Leopards finished third in the regular season standings. The final two games of last season, two close losses to top-seeded American just before and in the first round of the Patriot League Tournament gave the Leopards some direction this offseason.
“I think the last two games certainly gave us some confidence,” Nolan added. “We knew what to address. We had a better sense of what we needed to accomplish in the offseason. Our outside shooting, ball handling skills and intense offensive work are the key areas we addressed in preseason.”
Despite losing point guard, Melissa Downey ’12, and forward Sarah McGorry ’12, the 2012-13 Leopards have a strong nucleus of players with the potential for success this season.
The Lafayette frontcourt is, without a doubt, the biggest strength of the squad. The reigning Patriot League Rookie of the Year and sophomore co-captain Emily Homan will look to improve upon a stellar freshman campaign in which she averaged a team-high 11.8 points and snagged 7.1 rebounds per contest.
On the other block, 6’7” junior co-captain Danielle Fiacco is a force in the paint and a match-up problem for any opponent. She set the school record for blocks in a single season in 2011-12 with 112 and already stands alone atop the career record books with 183 in her first two seasons. Fiacco nabbed 248 rebounds last season and, along with Homan, will need to step up when called upon in 2012-13.
“Danielle and Emily are both used to being in the five spot, commanding a strong presence in the low post,” Nolan said. “Learning to defer to each other and learning each other’s strengths and weaknesses took some time, but they are now certainly more comfortable with one another.”
The ability for Fiacco and Homan to work together in the low post and complement each other will go a long way in determining the success of this year’s team.
Providing some depth on the block will be senior Samantha Jordan, junior Kristan Liddle, and classmate Kelly Loughney, who is eligible this season after sitting out last year due to NCAA transfer regulations. Freshmen Jazmin Hayes and Annette Snow will also see time in their first seasons on College Hill.
Sophomores Brya Freeland and Maddie Peabody, along with newcomer Jamie O’Hare, will handle the point guard duties this season. Freeland led the team in 2011-12 with 23 three-point field goals, while Peabody was second to Downey in assists with 56 on the year. However, Coach Nolan is looking for more of an improvement on defense from this group in 2012-13, and has seen promise in the preseason.
“I see an increased intensity in defense this year,” Nolan said. “Our defense is a lot stronger, playing throughout the shot clock, and everyone is rebounding and jumping passing lanes.”
Seniors Ashley Springer and co-captain Alicia Manning look to replace Downey’s leadership this season, having a combined 147 games under their belts in the Maroon and White. Springer drained 11 three-pointers last season, good enough for second on the team, while Manning was a safety net at the free-throw line, shooting 83% from the stripe.
Junior Madeline Fahan and sophomore Linnel Macklin, along with freshmen walk-on Morgan Miller, round out the guard group. Fahan averaged five points per game in 2011-12 and led the team in three-point field goal percentage, shooting 37% from behind the arc, an area of improvement that has been addressed this offseason.
“We really wanted to get in the best condition possible to improve our shooting,” Nolan added. “We thought sometimes our shots were a little shy because we didn’t have the legs and arms going into the mechanics of the shot. We really focused on getting stronger and getting our mechanics properly set coming into this season.”
Two NCAA Tournament teams from a season ago highlight the 2012-13 schedule, which features 13 games inside Kirby Sports Center. After opening up at home with Loyola Chicago on Nov. 9, the Leopards will travel to Seton Hall on Nov. 11 and host Villanova on Nov. 14.
The first big test for Lafayette will be its trip to Penn State on Nov. 18, a team that advanced all the way to the Sweet Sixteen in last year’s NCAA Tournament. The Nittany Lions went 26-7 last season including 13-3 in the Big Ten, and only lose one starter from their lineup a year ago.
After five more non-conference contests, the Leopards will make their longest trip of the year, traveling to Columbus, Ohio on Dec. 9 to take on Ohio State. The Buckeyes were NCAA Tournament participants last season and finished with an overall record of 25-7. Like Penn State, Ohio State only loses one starter to graduation and will be a formidable test for the Lafayette squad.
The Patriot League season will get underway on Jan. 13 as the Leopards travel to League preseason-favorite Navy. Meetings with archrival Lehigh are scheduled for Jan. 26 in Kirby Sports Center and Feb. 23 at Stabler Arena.
The Patriot League Tournament will take place March 7-16, with the higher seed serving as the host for each game.