Here's another in the "Team Report" series looking back at the 2013-14 season and taking a crystal-ball look at what might be ahead for conference teams.
Up now ...
2013-14 RECORD: 8-12 in MAAC play, seventh place; 9-21 overall.
WHAT WENT RIGHT: It wasn't the season the program hoped for, but there were bright spots, most of them coming when team chemistry developed as the season progressed. A tough non-league schedule produced a 1-8 record and, then, the Jaspers got off to a 2-7 start in conference play. That, though, was followed by a strong 6-5 finish including a victory over fourth-place Rider and a difficult sweep on the Western New York trips with wins at Niagara and at Canisius. Senior perimeter player Monica Roeder (12.1 points, 4.5 rebounds, 62 three-pointers) had another strong season to finish out a very nice career. Another senior, point guard Allison Skrec, continued her career-long upward trend and finished out with one of the better seasons by any point guard in the league. Her 6.2 assists-per-game average was sixth-best nationally. A freshman forward, Kayla Grimme (9.9, 7.1) burst on the scene early with the promise to be one of the better "bigs" in the conference and, then, was hurt and didn't play after the team's first eight games. Sophomore forward Shayna Erickson and 6-1 junior forward Ashley Stec also had solid seasons. Junior guard Nicole Isaacs continued to be one of the better long-range snipers in the MAAC (61 treys), while sophomores Blake Underhill and Katie Reese also contributed. There was enough depth, just not enough of it in the post after Grimme went down. The team played its traditionally efficient defense and ranked 172nd nationally (out of 343 Division I teams) in points allowed. It finished 61st with 9.2 steals per contest.
WHAT WENT WRONG: The slow start against what was a fairly strong non-conference schedule. And, then, Grimme got hurt in the season's eighth game and never returned. That left the Jaspers woefully undermanned inside and its 10.5 rebound-per-game disadvantage was, by far, the worst of any conference team. Roeder was pretty much the team's only consistent scoring threat and opponents certainly took note of where she was at all times. Stec, the next biggest contributor, missed several games with a concussion situation. Erickson, a slender forward, wound up the leading rebounder (5.8) after Grimme went down. Still, the solid late-season surge must have created some optimism but that didn't help in the MAAC tournament when 3-17 (in league play) Siena demolished Manhattan, 87-66, in the post-season event's play-in round.
WHAT'S AHEAD: Roeder and Skrec are gone, and a team's top scorer and a very effective point guard are tough pieces to replace. But, it appears Manhattan can overcome the losses. Jacqui Thompson, a 5-3 transfer from Wagner (4.2 points, 3.4 assists per game in the 2012-13 season) sat out last year and is eligible in 2014-15 and is the likely starter to replace Skrec. Erickson, Isaacs and Stec are all likely to step up their point production, which should make up for Roder's loss on the offensive end. And, then, Grimme should be 100 percent for the season, which gives the team the presence in the paint it did not have a year ago. The top incoming recruit seems to be Nyasha Izizarry, a 5-9 guard who was a big scorer on the high school level and is expected to get into the playing group. The other signed recruit is another 5-9 guard, Shanda Heine, who could also help. The team will certainly have depth on the perimeter, particularly if Maeve Parahus, another big-time high school scorer who didn't get a lot of playing time as a freshman, can step up.
REASONABLE EXPECTATION: If Grimme is fully healthy and Thompson can step in for Skrec, the overall result should be at least as good as last year. Younger players should develop and seven who were in the playing group this past season are back. If the Jaspers can get enough inside play, an improvement of a couple of games could be expected. Coach John Olenowski is one of the better mentors in the conference, so that helps, too. Manhattan isn't likely to challenge for a top four position, but they also won't be in the bottom three or four. Expect something between fifth and seventh.