The 2015-16 Rowan University women’s basketball season was a renaissance of sorts.
The brown and gold put up their first 20-plus win season since 2003-04 and made it into the Division III Championship tournament for the first time since the 1999-00 season.
Three essential players from that team are now gone. Graduate students Kate Matthews, Kaitlin Schullstrom and Melissa Lake exhausted all of their eligibility and are no longer playing. Matthews and Schullstrom both were career 1,000-point scorers. Last year alone, the trio combined for 1,036 of the team’s 2,264 total points.
Head coach Gabby Lisella said that besides the scoring, the team will miss the maturity that the three girls brought.
“They were certainly used to playing together and formed a nucleus that everyone could really rally around,” Lisella said. “I think the obvious answer is, ‘there’s a lot of points there,’ but I think just the core maturity, having been there, done that, is the biggest thing [missing].”
The coach added that she thinks the team can overcome that missing component because they are so deep this season. Eight players return from last year’s squad, five of them having played over 200 minutes.
When asked who could be a standout player for the brown and gold this season, Lisella had trouble pinpointing just one player.
“I think that we’re even deeper than last year,” Lisella said. “Normally, you think you’ll play about eight kids, well we’ve been playing 10. We’ve got 13 kids that we have to find minutes for. I don’t think we’re going to have a set starting lineup; I think it will revolve and evolve quite a bit.”
Some of the key returners that Lisella talked about in length were senior guards Valerie Garofalo and Anyssa Sanchez, as well as junior guard Summer Crilley.
“As the starting point guard, Val certainly had an impact. She can light you up for 25 or she can distribute the ball,” Lisella said. “Summer certainly has the ability to be a scoring threat. I think she’s improved her conditioning and her defensive ability.
“Anyssa Sanchez is as athletic a player you will find in our conference, possibly in the country,” she continued. “She jumps center for us, she’s just so explosive and so quick that she plays much bigger than she is.”
Not only are the changes coming on the court, but also on the sidelines in the form of new coaches.
Joe Crispin, one of last year’s assistant coaches, has been named the men’s basketball coach. Replacing him are former men’s assistant Demetrius Poles and a familiar face to the Profs: Schullstrom.
“Kait’s been through it. As an assistant, particularly when we’re running practices, she knows what I want,” Lisella said. “She gives us another voice that knows what’s going on. She can relate to players because she’s not that removed from where they are now.”
“Demetrius comes in to help us out and has a very similar background to what Joe Crispin brought with that European style of play. His input, particularly on the offensive end, will help us continue our style of play.”
The women’s basketball team opened up the 2016-17 season on Nov. 15, getting a 71-67 win over Delaware Valley University on the road. It was the third straight win over Rams.
Junior guard Summer Crilley led the Profs in scoring with 18 points.
The brown and gold will face College of St. Vincent on Nov. 18 as part of the Neumann Tip-Off Tournament in Aston, Pennsylvania.