Women’s Hoops Readies For A Repeat



Friedman, Alex

Last year, Colgate women’s basketball shocked the school and the Patriot League by overcoming 12 straight losing seasons to win the league championship and earn its first-ever NCAA Tournament berth. This year, an entirely new coaching staff is at the helm, led by head coach Kristin Hughes. Expectations are still high – with the team returning four starters, the only surprise will be if the defending champions fail to turn in another dramatic and exciting season. Hughes has set the bar extremely high and has demanded the most from her players during preseason workouts. “Our goal is to accomplish everything the team did last year and then some,” she declared. “Advance to the NCAA Tournament, and get to the Sweet 16 or Elite Eight.” Colgate was picked to finish a close second in the Patriot League’s preseason poll and enters the season led by one of the league’s preseason co-Players of the Year – senior co-captain Emily Braseth.Braseth, an athletic, high-energy forward, led the Raiders in scoring in each of the last two seasons. She placed third in the league with 18 points per game during league play last year, and will be relied upon to carry the offense once again during her senior season. An extremely versatile player, Braseth also anchors the Raiders’ defense, as she is often used to hound the opponent’s point guard.Joining Braseth as co-captain is rock-solid senior center Leandra Fuller. At 6’2″, Fuller ranked fourth in the league in blocked shots last season, and also contributed 8.5 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. Whereas Braseth leads the team vocally and emotionally, Fuller is a stabilizing force who leads her teammates by example.Senior Milaina Lagzdins, who dominated the glass in last season’s Patriot League tournament and earned all-Tournament team honors, gives Colgate even more size up front. The Raider coaching staff will have the option of going big and playing all three seniors together, or starting a three-guard lineup and bringing in Lagzdins off the bench.Behind the veteran trio of Braseth, Fuller and Lagzdins, junior Devon Warwick and sophomore Carly Brescacin will battle for minutes off the bench. Sophomore Jessica McQuoid and first-year Caitlin Gillard add even more depth to a very strong Colgate front-line.The Raiders also have a great deal of depth and talent at the guard positions, despite the loss of last year’s senior co-captains, Malissa Burke and Emily Damuth. At shooting guard, Colgate welcomes back senior Allison Lipinski, who missed most of the last two seasons due to plantar fasciitis and personal reasons. Lipinski will look to regain the form she displayed during the 2001-2002 season, when as a first-year she drained a school-record 101 three-pointers and led the Raiders in scoring with 15.8 points per game.Lipinski’s partner in crime from beyond the arc will be junior Meghan Curtin, who shot 35.3 percent from three-point range last season and expects to see a significant boost in minutes this year. Curtin and others will be relied upon to fill the scoring void left by Burke, a second-team all-Patriot League performer who finished eighth in the league in scoring and fifth in both assists and three-point shooting last year. Juniors Monee Perry and Megan Ballard are other options at the off-guard positions.The Raiders’ one question mark is at point guard. Last year, first-year Molly Patterson took over the starting job from day one and played brilliantly in her first 16 collegiate games, averaging 11.6 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists per contest. However, a broken foot cut her stellar season short, and the injury failed to properly heal over the summer. Surgery is likely and Patterson may be forced to sit out another season.The injury is a significant blow, but it is one the Raiders have handled before. Chigozie Ozor, now a senior, took over the point guard duties in Patterson’s absence last year and played terrifically, leading the Raiders to a 10-4 league record and the tournament championship. Ozor finished second in the league in steals and averaged 8.4 points and 5.0 rebounds per contest.Another option at point guard is Ballard, who has been used mostly as a shooting guard and defensive specialist through her two years at Colgate. Ballard saw significant time running the point during the preseason and may end up starting or splitting time with Ozor at the head of the Raider offense if Patterson is forced to sit.Colgate also brought in a pair of first-years to add depth at the point guard position. Melanie Cargle has been impressive at both ends of the floor during preseason scrimmages and can be expected to challenge Ozor and Ballard for minutes, while 5’5″ sparkplug Shevorne Martin has been slowed by injury thus far but will be a speedy force once she gets back to full strength.Armed with a deep and talented roster, Colgate’s success will depend on the team’s ability to pick up and implement the new offensive and defensive schemes. However, the players have taken well to the new coaches and new system and are optimistic about the upcoming season. “We are all excited for the season to start,” Lipinski said. “We’ve been working really hard in practice and we think it will pay off.”The Raiders open the season this weekend at the St. Bonaventure Tournament, then play next Wednesday at Hofstra before returning to Hamilton for the home opener next Saturday versus Canisius. Hughes says her team is expecting enthusiastic crowds to lead the women’s basketball team to a repeat Patriot League crown. “I hope that all the people who came to the games last year come back and I hope they bring three other people with them – I hope they all get addicted to this team.”