Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Team Report: More Rebuilding For Siena Women

Here's another in the "Team Report" series looking back at the 2013-14 season and taking a crystal-ball look ahead at conference programs.

Up now ...


2013-14 RECORD: 3-17 in MAAC play, 10th place; 9-22 overall.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Not a lot, as evidenced by the record. Tehresa Coles, a 5-9 junior guard, had her typical do-everything season, leading the team in points (10.8 per game), rebounds (5.7) and steals (2.1). Another junior, 6-foot-0 Ida Krough, who barely played due to foot issues the previous year, added more versatility. The team's best passer (a team-high 62 assists), she was also forced to play in the post due to some injuries. Meghan Donohue, a 6-2 freshmen, played at times like one of the better young post players in the league and finished by averaging 8.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and shooting 51 percent from the floor. Kelsey Booth, a 6-1 junior forward who was lightly used in the past, did improve dramatically as the season went on. She had a huge 25/12 game at midseason vs. Rider, and was one of the Saints' most-productive players late, averaging 10.6 points and 5.7 rebounds over Siena's last seven games. Another forward, sophomore Simone Kelly averaged 4.6 points and 3.4 rebounds (with a 14-point effort vs. Buffalo) before a knee injury knocked her out for the season. A pressuring zone-type defense did have some effect, producing 9.9 steals per outing, 29th best nationally. The team did have a better-than-.500 record (5-4 vs. non-conference foes), and did have some strong play in league competition, but too often not consistently. It played its best game of the season in the play-in round of the MAAC tournament, upsetting higher-seeded Manhattan, 87-66.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Start with injuries to post players. Expected returnee, rugged 6-1 Kate Zarotney's shoulder issues forced her to miss the entire season, and Kelly, who seemed to be on the verge of emerging in the post, suffered a torn ACL in December and was lost for the remainder of the season. One of the other senior posts, Clara Sole Anglada, did not play up to expectations and rarely got on the court after midseason. It left Siena, basically, with only Donohue in the post. After she had some strong early play, teams consistently double- and triple-teamed her, limiting her contributions ... While the defense forced a high number of steals, the offense was very proficient at taking advantage of the few extra possesions. Siena's field-goal percentage of 35.4 percent was 15th-worst nationally. The Saints did outrebound teams on its offensive end, but that was a product of all those missed shots. When the team's gambling defense didn't produce a turnover, opponents had little trouble scoring against Siena.  The opposition's combined 45.0 percent field goal accuracy was the 17th-highest allowed by a Division I team. And Siena's zone found it difficult to defend on the perimeter. Only three teams nationally allowed a higher shooting percentage from beyond the stripe. That 5-4 non-conference record came against one of the weakest non-league schedules in program history. Four of those wins came against teams that finished with a combined 25-89 record. Two of the league victories came against Saint Peter's, the bottom team in the final standings, and the other came against Canisius. It all added up to the worst finish in conference play in the program's Division I history, and the first season without double-digit victories in 18 years.

WHAT'S AHEAD: A deep look ahead can see some better days, but it won't happen quickly. The team loses its best outside shooter (Kanika Cummings) and its starting point guard Ciara Stewart to graduation. Coles, who relies on quickness, won't ever be a big scorer. Neither will Donohue unless she either develops a mid-range game or gets enough help elsewhere so teams won't consistently double team her in the post. Kelly can be a nice addition in the post, if she has quick recovery from the knee injury. If Booth can build on her late-season play, she is another nice piece. The key players -- Coles, Donohue, Krough and Booth -- form a nice-enough foursome, but don't come close to the core groups of the better MAAC teams. There's a big hole at point guard, and next-to-no outside shooting threat. The Saints are still firmly in the rebuilding stage at both ends of the court as they enter Year 3 under head coach Ali Jaques. There appears to be a strong five-player recruiting class coming in, and that's the primary hope for future years.

REASONABLE EXPECTATION: Siena will be relying on veteran players who haven't done enough to date to suggest a major jump forward, and an incoming freshman class coming into a league where young players rarely make significant contributions. To ask that combination to propel Siena into competing for the upper half of the standings is a real reach for the coming season. Expect a bottom-three finish, and hope the youngsters start developing enough to create optimism for future years.

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