SALISBURY, Md. – The Salisbury University women's basketball team will welcome a number of fresh new faces for the 2018-2019 season and hopes the combination of youthful talent and veteran leadership will prove to be a recipe for success.
The Sea Gulls finished 15-11 overall last season, including a 10-8 Capital Athletic Conference record that led to a seventh-straight CAC playoff appearance.
Salisbury returns three starters from a season ago, but will look to fill voids left by the graduations of guards Mary McDonagh and Morgan Grubb. Head Coach Kelly Baskow, now in her eighth season at the helm of the women's basketball program, feels the surplus of young talent at the guard position means the door is wide open when it comes to minutes.
"We may take a committee approach," Baskow said. "We have a lot of new people coming in at guard."
Overall, the team returns eight players from last season and welcomes six new freshmen to the squad.
Senior Megan Konig has the most experience at the guard position of anyone on the current roster, having started 13 games for the Sea Gulls in 2017-2018.
"Megan's a versatile player," Baskow said. "Her height allows her to attack and go inside-outside. She also shows great range on her shot, so I think she's going to lead a lot from that position this season."
Sophomore Amber Onyekwere will have a shot to fill the point guard role left by McDonagh. Onyekwere averaged 15.3 minutes as a freshman off the bench in 2017-2018.
"Amber has really been stepping up for us this season," Baskow said. "She had a lot of opportunities to fill in behind Mary last season so she already comes into this season with a lot of experience."
"Both Dalina and Aprile have really grown in their roles and we're excited to see some more time from them," Baskow said.
Baskow also added that a number of freshman guards are also pushing the envelope and are likely to see significant playing time.
"Jada Welbon has been doing a spectacular job so far," Baskow said. "She has great quickness and a great handle. Her speed adds a lot on both ends."
"Kylie is a great role player." Baskow said. "She has a great shot from the outside and can do a lot of the little things.
"Lauren is very crafty. How she finishes right at the rim sometimes, it amazes all of us. She's very offensive-minded and plays on the edge."
"Morgan was injured for the majority of last season," Baskow said. "She started the season off very strong, but injuries kept her out for the rest of the year. We're very happy to be getting her back."
French led the maroon and gold with 11.4 points per game in 2017-2018, while also finishing first with 7.5 rebounds per game and second in minutes, averaging 26.6.
"Kaylyn and Morgan are very different," Baskow said. "Morgan has a little more height and is a strong rebounder, while Kaylyn is a little more versatile in how she attacks the basket and plays defense."
Rachel Ryan retains her role as the starting center for the Sea Gulls, and Baskow is impressed with how her post player looks entering the season.
"Rachel has really come a long way," Baskow said. "She's looking a lot stronger in the post than she has in the past. We're going to focus a lot on her and our inside-outside game. She does a great job of rebounding the ball on both ends as well."
Sophomore Courtney Brigham, who started five games for Salisbury last season, could also see an uptick in minutes in her second year.
"Courtney got some solid minutes for us last season," Baskow said. "We keep seeing her continue to grow and help out the team."
Baskow also sees a ton of potential in her new freshman recruit, Kaylee Otlowski.
"Right now, Kaylee is very raw, but extremely athletic," Baskow said. "She has a nose for rebounding and a sense to move to the ball. With some polish, she's going to have a big impact on our program."
Salisbury will once again challenge itself early in preparation for conference play with a slate of games against some very tough out-of-conference opponents.
"We always try and play a really tough schedule outside of conference play because the CAC is so tough to prepare for, and we've done really well as a result," Baskow said. "We're playing some really good teams like Virginia Wesleyan, Stevenson, and Catholic."
Baskow also added the challenge her team faces when it travels to Las Vegas around Christmas time to participate in the annual Las Vegas Tournament.
"It's going to be a real challenge," Baskow said. "We play Cabrini who makes the NCAA tournament almost every year, and we also play Randolph-Macon, another program with a great basketball history that also has one of the best post players in the country and an All-American."
Randolph-Macon University currently ranks No. 25 in D3hoops.com's preseason poll. Salisbury will also square off against No. 16 Marymount (Va.) University on November 28, and No. 20 Christopher Newport University twice, on January 23 on the road and February 13 at home.
The Sea Gulls tip off the season on Wednesday, November 14 when they host Virginia Wesleyan University at Maggs Physical Activities Center. The game is set to begin at 6 p.m.