2013-2014 Women’s Basketball Outlook – Looking for a Three-Peat
ALBANY, N.Y. – The last two years at the University at Albany, the Great Danes women’s basketball team has been second to none in the America East Conference. This season, UAlbany will look to be the first team since Maine 15 years ago to earn a three-peat.
UAlbany, coming off its best season ever with a 27-4 record and perfect 16-0 conference slate, will have big shoes to fill will the departure of the most talented senior class in school history. Ebone Henry, the school’s all-time leading scorer, last season’s America East Player of the Year and a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, Julie Forster, the school’s all-time rebounder and a three-time all-conference player, Lindsay Lowrie, a third team all-league player who ranks sixth all-time in UAlbany history in three-point shooting and Keyana Williams, a starter who shot 48.7% last season, all graduated after the 2012-13 season.
To replace this foursome, UAlbany returns seven players from last year, including the starting point guard and a pair of Preseason All-Conference players to lead the team. A strong six-member freshman class bolsters the ranks as the Great Danes enter the 2013-14 season as the Preseason #1 team in the America East, ranked #22 in the College Insider Mid-Major Poll.
UAlbany will look to a mix of returners and newcomers to fill the void left by Henry and Lowrie. Leading the unit is last year’s starting point guard Sarah Royals, a junior. Last season, Royals finished with 115 assists, the seventh-highest season total in UAlbany history and second-highest tally in the America East, averaging 4.6 points, 3.7 assists and 1.4 steals per game.
As a key reserve last season, junior Margarita Rosario played in all 31 games with three starts, finishing third on the team with 61 assists, averaging 2.2 points a game, including a career-high 10 points in a game against Hartford.
The unit also sports the team’s lone senior, Tammy Phillip, in her second year after transferring from Central Arizona. Phillip played in 20 games off the bench last season, grabbing 3.5 rebounds a game to add to 2.3 points a contest.
Looking for more time this season will be sophomore Erin Coughlin, a three-point specialist who played in 16 games off the bench last year, going 6-18 from behind the arc.
Five freshmen will join the backcourt ranks this season, including Bose Aiyalogbe, who played at the Life Center Academy in New Jersey after growing up in Lagos, Nigeria. Ranked the #48 wing in the ESPN Class of 2017, Aiyalogbe led her high school to a #25 national ranking last season.
From South Carolina comes Amoshia Blakeney, an All-State point guard from Hammond High. She earned All-State honors last season after being the lone senior of her high school roster.
Cassandra Edwards comes to UAlbany from America’s northern neighbor, playing at Notre Dame CSS in Brampton, Ontario. She served as team captain her last three years and is a former member of the U-15 Ontario Team.
The next two newcomers hail from the home state of New York. From Carthage High comes Zakiya Saunders, a versatile guard who was the first person in 15 years to earn a D-I scholarship at her school. She earned league MVP honors after averaging 19.1 points, 11 boards, five assists and five steals a contest as a senior.
Rounding out the backcourt is Imani Tate from Bishop Loughlin in the Bronx. Ranked the #45 guard in the ESPN Class of 2017, she was rated a top-five player in New York City after averaging 25 points a game as a senior.
Though the group is relatively young, the UAlbany frontcourt sports a pair of Preseason All-Conference players. At center is one of the tallest players in all of Division I, 6-foot-9 junior Megan Craig. Craig, a Preseason All-Conference player, a Third Team All-Conference member last season and the America East Tournament Most Valuable Player, finished in the top ten of the league in scoring (10.6 pts. a game), field goal percentage (54.9%) and total blocks (29).
Also down low is sophomore Preseason All-Conference member Shereesha Richards, the Co-Rookie of the Year in the America East last season. Shooting a league-best 61.1% last season, also the top season-mark in UAlbany history, Richards averaged 10.2 points a game and is the team’s-top returning rebounder from last year with 5.9 boards a contest. She also ranked eighth in the conference with 2.1 steals a game.
A third returner, sophomore Keyontae Williams, comes back for UAlbany. She played as a reserve in 19 games last season, finishing with 22 points and 12 rebounds with a 32% shooting percentage.
In the freshman class comes Jessica Féquière, a standout forward as Champlain College Saint-Lambert in Montreal. In her high school career she averaged a double double a game, shooting 44.5% with 17.5 points and 10.6 boards a contest.
After the greatest season in UAlbany women’s basketball history, the Great Danes return the entire coaching staff in search of the three-peat.
Head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson returns for her fourth season. In her tenure with UAlbany, the Great Danes have gone 66-28, including winning 30 out of 32 conference games the past two years.
Coach Abrahamson-Henderson returns her entire support staff for the 2013-14 season. All three assistant coaches, Mary Grimes, Kelly Komara and Tahnee Balerio, director of basketball operations Brittany Hollingsworth and graduate assistant manager Isoken Uzamere all return for this year.
The Great Danes will play a 30-game regular season schedule, including 14 home games and a full conference slate.
The Purple and Gold tip off the season with the Albany Cup against Capital District rival Siena at the Times Union Center on Friday, November 8th at 5 p.m.
Following, the Great Danes the first of four straight home games, opening at home with Western Michigan on Sunday, November 10th at 2 p.m.
UAlbany will take on three non-conference opponents that played in the NCAA Tournament last season. MAAC champion Marist comes to Albany on Thursday, November 14th at 7 p.m. On Sunday, December 15th, UAlbany hosts reigning Northeast champion Quinnipiac at 2 p.m., flying to Durham for the next game against ACC champion Duke on Thursday, December 19th at 6:30 p.m.
The first three conference games for UAlbany will be on the road, starting with Vermont on Thursday, January 9th at 7 p.m. The first conference home game will be Saturday, January 18th against Maine at 2 p.m. at the SEFCU Arena.
For the second straight year, UAlbany will host the America East Tournament. The quarterfinals will be on Friday, March 7th. The semifinals will be on Sunday, March 9th, with the title game set for Monday, March 10th at 4 p.m.