SALISBURY, Md. – The 2016-17 edition of the Salisbury University women's basketball team is ready for the season ahead and will feature a squad with seasoned returners and a talented bunch of newcomers.
Head Coach Kelly Lewandowski and the Sea Gulls posted a .500 record overall (13-13) and in conference play (9-9) last season en route to a Capital Athletic Conference tournament appearance.
From last season's bunch, the team returns 67.1 percent of its scoring, including four of the five players that notched over 150 points. However, the team will now have to replace last season's leading scorer and CAC Player of the Year, Julia McLaughlin who graduated following the season.
This season the team will be a young, experienced group as there are only two seniors on the team and they only graduated two last season. Some of the younger players who saw crucial minutes a season ago will get to step into bigger roles. Six newcomers, including five freshman will also be pushing some of the established players both in practice and for minutes as the season plays itself out.
"We return a ton of experience all over the court and we can't wait to get out there," Lewandowski said. "Along with the veterans, we have a group of newcomers that has been catching onto the things we do quicker than any group we've had."
The Gulls have now made the CAC tournament each season that Lewandowski has been at the helm and will look to continue that tradition in the 2016-17 season.
Lewandowski's 2016-17 back court will be the most experienced area of the team as her projected starting point guard and shooting guard both bring a wealth of experience to the court.
At the point, Mary McDonagh will take the reins of the offense again as she averaged 8.3 points per game and 3.7 assists per game a season ago starting 23 of the Gulls' 26 contests.
"Last year Mary stepped in and really did a good job for us," Lewandowski said. "This year she has come in with more confidence and she put in a lot of work over the summer and she is ready to lead this team."
Along with a positive assist-to-turnover ratio last season, McDonagh also showed the ability to stretch opposing defenses, hitting just south of 40 percent of her three-point attempts.
Lauren Rothfeld comes in as Lewandowski's main shooting guard and is the most experienced player on the team. Rothfeld is the team's returning leading scorer, having posted an 8.9 point-per-game mark last year. Rothfeld filled up the stat sheet last season, also contributing 6.1 rebounds per game and posting a 2.3 assist-to-turnover ratio.
"Her experience, having played since her freshman season is going to be big for us," Lewandowski said. "Her length and range and scrappiness is going to add a great element on offense. She also plays great defense and we are excited for what is will do for us this year."
Adding depth at shooting guard, Morgan Grubb is expected to see an increased work load from last season. Grubb started 17 games last season and averaged 4.2 points per game. Lewandowski noted that Grubb's offseason was incredibly successful as she has come into preseason as a better shooter and all-around player from last year.
On the guards as a unit Lewandowski said, "I think Lauren (Rothfeld) and Morgan (Grubb) are going to add a lot to both sides of the ball this season and that is going to really help Mary (McDonagh) out as the season goes on."
Perhaps the player with the biggest role to fill this season is going to be Kaylyn French. Last season she played a supplemental role to McLaughlin as a freshman but impressed throughout. Despite playing under 20 minutes per game, she scored 5.6 points per game and added 4.7 rebounds per game.
"Kaylyn got a lot of experience as a freshman and this season will look to take on more of a primary scoring role," Lewandowski said. "She has always be a great rebounder and defender and we should be able to rely on her heavily."
At the power forward position Josephine Noonan returns for her junior campaign after posting 7.5 points per game and 4.7 rebounds per game.
"Joey is a really experienced player and I think she's really committed to what we are trying to do," Lewandowski said. "I think she's excited to be more of a go-to player and leader on the team this year."
A line up that can easily be moved around. Noonan will also see time at the center position as French can play power forward, Rothfeld move up to small forward, and have Grubb control the shooting guard duties.
At both the small forward and power forward positions Lewandowski thinks there are several additional players that will be getting signifigant minutes in the rotation.
The team's 25-game regular season slate is a challenging one that will look to prepare the Gulls for a postseason run.
The season will start on Tuesday, November 15 as they will host Virginia Wesleyan College. CAC play opens up for the Gulls on November 30 against St. Mary's College of Maryland following five out-of-conference contests.
The 2016 schedule features three NCAA tournament teams, all coming in conference play via the University of Mary Washington, Marymount (Va.) University, and sweet-sixteen participant Christopher Newport University.
"The CAC is always really tough and we look forward to that every year," Lewandowski said. "We always try to schedule a tough out-of-conference schedule and that will help prepare us for the CAC schedule."
The team will play two tournaments, starting with the Gwynedd Mercy Tip-Off from November 18-19 where the team will play two games. Then the team travels north over winter break where they will visit the Greater Boston area for a tournament hosted by Wellesley College and Babson College. Salisbury is slated to play against the two host institutions in the tournament.