2015-16 UAlbany Women’s Basketball Outlook: Going for America East History

ALBANY, N.Y. – In the 2015-16 season, the UAlbany women’s basketball team will look to make conference history.  The Great Danes are seeking to be the first America East women’s basketball team to win five consecutive conference championships.

Last season, UAlbany earned a share of the America East regular season title for the third straight season, defeating Hartford 84-75 in the conference title game at the SEFCU Arena for its fourth consecutive league tournament title and a berth into the NCAA Tournament.  UAlbany earned a program record 13-seed and pushed 4-seed Duke to the brink in Durham, falling in the final seconds 54-52 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

In the 2014-15 season, UAlbany earned its first program victory over a Power Five opponent with a 54-53 victory over three-time defending Big Ten regular season champion Penn State to reach the semifinals of the Preseason WNIT.  The Great Danes also defended the Albany Cup for the fifth year in a row, defeating Siena 76-57 at the Times Union Center.

UAlbany coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson enters her sixth year at the helm for the Great Danes.  Last season, she earned her 100th win as UAlbany head coach and 200th as a head coach overall.  In her tenure, UAlbany has a 118-42 record and a 68-12 America East tally.

UAlbany returns eight letterwinners for the 2015-16 season, including the program’s first-ever Division I All-American, the America East Sixth Player of the Year, the team’s record holder of assists by a sophomore and a member of the league’s All-Rookie Team.  The team adds six newcomers to the team including two junior college transfers and four freshmen.  The team was predicted to finish first in the America East in the preseason coaches poll.

Only two women’s basketball programs, UAlbany from 2012-15 and Maine from 1994-97, have won four consecutive America East titles.  No team has won five in a row; UAlbany looks to be the first.

BACKCOURT
UAlbany will have some changes at the guard position with the departure of Sarah Royals and Margarita Rosario, each top-10 in UAlbany history in assists.

The 2014-15 Sixth Player of the Year and America East All-Conference Second Team player, junior Imani Tate had the fourth-highest scoring season in UAlbany history last season, shooting 49.5% from the field and averaging 14.2 points and 6.1 boards a game, adding two steals a contest, ranking third in the America East in that category.

Junior Zakiya Saunders set a record for assists among UAlbany sophomores with 122 last season, ranking fifth in the America East with 1.9 steals and 3.7 assists a game.  Starting 19 games last year, Saunders averaged 7.7 points a game with a 44.3% field goal percentage.

A team captain and three-point specialist, senior Erin Coughlin ranks 10th in UAlbany history in three-point field goals made.  Last season in 30 games played, Coughlin averaged 3.1 points a game, shooting 28% from behind the arc.

Also a three-point shooter, junior Jessica Fequiere played in 21 games last year as a reserve.  Averaging 2.3 points a game, she finished last season with 49 points and 35 rebounds.

Redshirt sophomore Bose Aiyalogbe played in her first season last year as a reserve guard and forward.  In 14 games played, Aiyalogbe tallied 21 points and 13 rebounds.

Four newcomers join the unit, including a couple of junior college transfers.  Bailey Hixson comes to UAlbany from Monroe Community College, leading the Tribunes to a 53-7 record, earning First Team All-Region honors as a sophomore with a 44% three-point percentage.

A local product from Troy, Aubrey Hernandez joins the team as a redshirt junior.  A practice player last year, Hernandez graduated from Hudson Valley Community College after averaging 13.5 points a game while at Loudonville Christian.

Khara Keane joins the team for her freshman season this year.  Keane led St. Joseph’s College to the 2014 TDCAA Jr. AAAA Girl’s Basketball Championship in 2014, also playing with the U17 Toronto Junior Rams in Canada.

From the state of Pennsylvania comes freshman Amarri Trueheart, a two-time All-League Suburban One guard from Cheltenham.  She led the Panthers to the Suburban One American Conference Championship in the 2011-12 season.

FRONTCOURT
UAlbany’s frontcourt remains intact for this season, with the team returning the top four rebounders from last year.

Shereesha Richards enters her senior year as the most decorated women’s basketball player in UAlbany history, earning Associated Press Honorable Mention All-America honors and her second straight America East Player of the Year award in the 2014-15 season.  Ranking seventh in Division I with a 58.3% field goal percentage, the team captain led the America East in scoring and rebounding for the second consecutive year with 21 points and 8.8 rebounds a game.

Earning America East All-Rookie Team honors last season, sophomore Tiana-Jo Carter led the Great Danes in blocks last season, totaling 37.  Playing in all 33 games with 22 starts in the 2014-15 season, Carter shot 50.9% from the field with 6.6 points and 5.6 rebounds a contest.

Also a team captain for this season, junior Cassandra Edwards played in 30 games last season with 12 starts.  Averaging 1.7 points and 2.1 rebounds a game last year, Edwards earned the America East Elite 18 Award for highest GPA among players in the conference title game.

The tallest player on the team at 6-foot-4, freshman Veronika Lavergne comes to UAlbany from Canada.  A former member of the U17 Team Ontario team, she led St. Peter’s to the 2013 Ottawa AAAA High School Championship, earning MVP honors.

Freshman Heather Forster keeps the family tradition, following in her sister Julie’s footsteps.  She led Huntington to a 40-2 record and a #2-state ranking in her final two years, earning Fourth Team All-State honors as a senior and All-Long Island honors twice.

COACHING STAFF
Abrahamson-Henderson returns the core of her staff that has assisted the Great Danes in winning the last four America East titles.  Back for her sixth season as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator is Mary Grimes, while Tahnee Balerio, also an assistant coach, returns for her sixth season as well.  Isoken Uzamere returns as an assistant coach, back for her fourth season with the team.  Joining the team as a graduate assistant manager in her first season is Jordyn Wartts, a former standout at Skidmore.

SCHEDULE
UAlbany will play 28 games in the regular season, including 11 home games and a full 16-game conference slate.  The schedule also includes a pair of road in-season tournaments and the Albany Cup at the Times Union Center.

Season tickets for UAlbany women’s basketball are currently on sale for the team’s 11 home games in the 2015-16 season, including America East competition and its three non-conference games, with chairbacks priced at $50 and reserved seats ranging from $15-30.

UAlbany begins the year at home against Pepperdine on Sunday, November 15th at 1 p.m.  After a road affair at Boston University on November 18th at 7 p.m., UAlbany plays in the URI Tournament.  The team plays Toledo on November 21st at 3 p.m., following against either Harvard or tournament host Rhode Island the next day at a time to be announced.

During the Thanksgiving break, UAlbany will take on national power and 2015 Elite Eight contender Tennessee in Knoxville on Friday, November 27th at noon.

The Great Danes return home to play Providence on Tuesday, December 1st at 7 p.m.  The next five games will be away from the SEFCU Arena, starting with a road game at Army West Point on December 5th at 3 p.m. and at Fairfield on December 9th at 7 p.m.

On Saturday, December 12th, the Purple & Gold descend upon the Times Union Center at 5 p.m. to defend the Albany Cup against Siena.  Last season, UAlbany won 76-57 for its fifth straight Albany Cup victory.

Before the holiday break, UAlbany flies to California to compete in the USC Tournament in Los Angeles.  The Great Danes take on UC Davis at 11 p.m. ET on December 18th then will play either tournament host USC or Florida A&M at a time to be determined on December 20th.

Non-conference play finishes with a game against Yale on Wednesday, December 30th at 7 p.m. at the SEFCU Arena.

UAlbany begins America East play in Baltimore against UMBC on January 6th at 7 p.m.  The first conference home game is on Saturday, January 9th at 2 p.m. against Vermont.

After a road game at New Hampshire on January 13th at noon, UAlbany will play its first ESPN3 game on Saturday, January 16th at 12 p.m.  The team stays in New York for the next two games, heading to Vestal to take on Binghamton on January 18th at 2 p.m., then returning home for a 7 p.m. game against Stony Brook on Thursday, January 21st.

The next two games are on the road.  The squad takes on UMass Lowell on January 27th at 11 a.m., then Hartford on ESPN3 on January 31st at 2 p.m.

The second half of the league schedule starts at home for UAlbany with a contest vs. UMBC on Wednesday, February 3rd at 7 p.m.  Back on the road go the Great Danes to play Vermont on February 6th at 2 p.m.

The next two games will be played at the SEFCU Arena.  UAlbany hosts Binghamton at 7 p.m. on Monday, February 8th, and New Hampshire on Tursday, February 11th at noon.

The road conference schedule finishes up with the next two games against last year’s one and three seeds in the America East Tournament.  The Great Danes play Maine on ESPN3 on Sunday, February 14th at 1 p.m. and Stony Brook on February 17th at 7 p.m.

UAlbany plays its final two regular season games at home.  The team welcomes in UMass Lowell on Thursday, February 25th at 7 p.m. and Hartford on Sunday, February 28th at 2 p.m.

The America East Tournament quarterfinals and semifinals are set for the weekend of March 5-6 at the BU Events Center in Vestal, New York.  The title game will be held at the highest remaining seed on Friday, March 11th at 4:30 p.m.

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