Women’s Basketball going for fourth straight title
By Megan Salle
The University at Albany women’s basketball team is set for another season in the American East Conference. Last year the team won their third straight conference title, dominating Stony Brook 70-46 in the championship game. The Great Danes ended the season with a 76-61 loss in a tough battle to West Virginia in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
“I hope to extend our game, not only me, but my teammates,” Shereesha Richards, last year’s America East player of the year, said. The 6-foot-1 junior forward was consistent in her efforts last season, averaging 20 points and 8.9 rebounds per game.
“It is hard to hold her back, she is like a lion out of cage. She is relentless,” head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson said of her star player.
Richards set numerous single season records with 659 total points and 295 rebounds as a sophomore. On Jan. 9, she scored 41 points in a game at Vermont, which was also a UAlbany single game record.
When talking about the upcoming season, Richards said, “We have to stick together. We need to focus on our game plan and do what we need to do when each game comes around. We know that everyone is coming for us.”
Richards’ teammate Sarah Royals, a senior guard, broke the record last season for assists in the America East. When asked about this season and building on the record again Royals said, “It is one of my personal goals. My role on the team is that I have to score a little bit, but I have to make the right passes. It’s easy when you have someone like (Richards) who finishes.”
The front court of the team is extremely strong with many returning players. Alongside Royals, Margarita Rosario and Erin Coughlin provide a solid offensive attack.
Rosario stabilizes the Great Danes with her ball handling skills as a point guard, but contributes points and rebounds too. She played in all 33 games last season.
Coughlin, a junior guard, is the primary three-point shooter on the team. When she is hot behind the arc, opponents need to watch out. In her two top games against UMass Lowell and NJIT last season, Coughlin finished 4-8 and 6-8 from three-point range.
“I think the one who had the biggest growth is Margarita. She is seriously focused all the time. Sarah is that non-quitter, just tough. Erin is our deadly killer out there, similar to a Lindsey Lowrie,” coach Abe said.
Royals mentioned that the team will be a contender again this season after only losing three players. As their experience grows, the team chemistry continues to build as well.
“All three of us work really well together,” Royals said. “We have a lot of upperclassmen leaders left.”
There is a lot to look forward to with returning players to this team, and incoming freshman Tiana-Jo Carter is making a name for herself already.
Carter attended high school at Lake Region in Naples, Maine. Throughout her four seasons, she was recognized as a First Team All-Conference player. She also earned the Mike Direnzo Award as a junior and senior, which is the Most Valuable Player award in Western Maine. Carter is now the tallest Great Dane standing at 6 feet 2 inches tall and coach Abe said she would be using her.
“Tiana was trying to learn and was overwhelmed in the summer, but was able to get past the preseason hard work stuff,” coach Abe said. “She is in great shape. She is a very smart basketball player too, so I’m really excited about having her.”
The Great Danes will open their season at the SEFCU Arena against St. Francis Brooklyn on Friday, Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. That game is the beginning of the Preseason Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT).
“We just take one game at time, so we are excited about the Preseason WNIT,” coach Abe said. “We are starting our season in a high level tournament, which we have never done before.”
UAlbany is guaranteed to play three games in the Preseason WNIT. The host sites are to be determined throughout the tournament. If the Great Danes win their first three games, the women will play in the championship on Sunday, November 23 on the CBS Sports Network at a site to be determined.