Friday, November 23, 2012

Women's Preview: Guard Play A Key For Siena

Here's another in the series previewing conference teams.

Up now ...


2011-12 RECORD: 9-9 in the MAAC, 12-17 overall. Won a first-round MAAC tournament game, 34-33, over Manhattan. Lost in the semifinals, 63-48, to Fairfield.

KEY LOSSES: Guard Cristina Centeno (10.1 points per game), guard Maja Gerlyng (9.6 ppg.), 5-8 guard Janine Davis (transferred to Fisk University).

KEY RETURNEES: 6-1 senior forward Lily Grenci (15.2 points, 7.8 rebounds per game last season), 6-1 junior forward Clara Sole-Anglada (7.9, 6.1), 5-9 sophomore guard Tehresa Coles (4.6, 2.6), 5-9 junior guard Kanika Cummings (4.4), 6-1 junior forward Kate Zarotney (3.7, 3.4), 6-1 sophomore forward Kelsey Booth (2.3), 5-6 junior guard Ciara Stewart (0.5, 0.6).

KEY NEWCOMER: 6-0 redshirt freshman guard Ida Krogh, 6-2 freshman center Symone Kelly.

NOTES: The Saints finished fourth in the MAAC standings in each of the past two seasons, and won a league tournament games both years, and still fired 22-year head coach Gina Castelli (now on the staff at Rhode Island) ... That move, in no small part, was made because the team hasn't had similar success in non-league play. The previous eight years have resulted in sub-.500 overall records, although never with fewer than 10 wins ... The current team is off to a 1-3 non-league start under new coach Ali Jaques, formerly an assistant at Northwestern ... This year's team seemed poised for improvement until Janine Davis, a transfer from George Washington University who might have been one of the league's better point guards, made a late-summer decision to transfer to Fisk, an NAIA program ... It leaves the current team shorthanded at the point, a position currently entrusted to previously lightly used junior Stewart, and without a legitimate back-up ... Through four games, the Saints are averaging an abnormally high 24.8 turnovers per contest ... If Siena can begin taking better care of the ball, it has a chance to be at least solid. It has one of the league's best players in Grenci (15.0, 10.0 so far this season), and one of the deepest front courts in the league. Zarotney (6.5, 5.5) has been effective off the bench. Sole-Anglada (6.3, 4.5) is capable at both ends and Booth (4.5) is one of the league's best long-range shooters (40.7 percent on 3-pointers last season) ... Sophomore Coles (6.3, 4.8, 3.0 steals) has made progress after a solid freshman year, particularly on her outside shot. Defensively, she uses rare quickness and desire to be one of the league's top "disruptive forces" ... Without effective guard play so far, though, the offense has struggled. After a 75-point season-opening effort against a weak Fairleigh Dickinson opponent, Siena has averaged 45.3 points over the last three contests ... But, there's certainly reason to believe the backcourt will improve with experience. Stewart hasn't played much in the past and Cummings, limited by knee issues the past two seasons, is healthier. Krogh, a multi-talented player, only got into five games and rarely practiced last year due to foot issues (and ended up a medical redshirt), is still shaking off some proverbial rust. The backcourt also could get a lift from sophomore Allison Mullings, who won the starting point guard spot last year but suffered a torn ACL in the team's first game a year ago and has only been lightly used thus far this year.

SIENA'S STRENGTH: A go-to player inside with Grenci, and a talented and deep front court. Grenci is a legitimate conference Player of the Year candidate. The team has four legitimate forwards all about 6-1, plus a promising freshman in 6-2 Kelly. Siena has been solid, at least, on the defensive end so far. Particularly Coles, who gives the Saints several extra possessions each game based on her defensive play.

SIENA'S WEAKNESS: Inexperienced guard play. Coles, a sophomore, is the backcourt's most-experienced player, but she doesn't handle the ball well enough to play at the point. The team had solid veterans in the backcourt last year with Centeno and Gerlyng, and clearly misses that sort of upperclass poise and experience so far.

REASONABLE EXPECTATION: There doesn't appear to be a clear-cut second-place finisher (to Marist) right now, but Siena would have to make considerable strides to reach that level this season. Still, the upper half of the league standings is a possibility. The best guess here is somewhere between fourth and seventh in the MAAC.

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