The Geneseo women’s basketball team is back in action after a long offseason—which involved many changes.
The first game of the season occurred Wednesday Nov. 15 as the women traveled to face the Houghton College Highlanders, where they earned their first victory of 65-38.
Perhaps the bigger story however, is the massive changes made to the roster during the offseason.
After experiencing great success in their previous season—including a perfect regular season record (25-0), an invitation to the SUNYAC Championship Game and a deep run into the NCAA Division III Tournament, resulting in a third-round loss to Ohio Northern University 72-55—the Knights are looking to have another great year, but it won’t be easy.
Five players from Geneseo’s team graduated last year, all of whom were starters. In addition, they also served as role models and leaders for the underclassmen.
“Anytime you lose five seniors who all started, you have major gaps to fill and not just in terms of basketball … even more importantly, the leadership, who’s stepping up and filling those internal roles,” head coach Scott Hemer said. “I think those are all things we are still trying to sort through right now.”
There are many drawbacks to having a younger team, however, it comes with some overlooked benefits; things in which coach Hemer will try to use to their advantage. For example, Hemer is anticipating great development throughout the season.
“We embrace our youth and inexperience and think there is some upside to having this group together at this point in time,” he said. “We also understand that there are going to be a lot of highs and lows and again we are all trying to learn how we are going to maneuver through it and that’s all going to be part of the process this year.”
With a major shake up to the roster, there are certainly gaps needing to be filled. Offensive player McKenna Brooks will return for her junior year with guard Sam Barry, the lone senior on the team.
As is true for any team dynamic, leadership is key and veterans tend to be a major driver of team unity.
“Only having one senior is tough, but so far in practices and even scrimmages, all of the other players, even younger players, have stepped up and been leaders on the team,” sophomore guard Sara Ciotti said.
Not only did the recent graduates add strength off the court, but they also put up impressive numbers during games. Their departure has also caused the Knights to change their game plan.
“We’re recovering from the loss of our starting five by changing up our offense a little bit and relying more on offense than defense,” Ciotti said.
As per NCAA regulations, the women could not practice on the court until Oct. 15. This means the Knights played their first game with roughly 20 practices under their belt, which certainly leads to concerns about game readiness.
“I think it’s difficult in our sport to have only two to three weeks to get ready and go out on the floor and perform effectively, especially when you’re trying to emphasize fundamentals,” Hemer said. “So it’s hard to get everything in that you need your team to be able to process together and develop their individual skill sets.
As emphasized by coaches and players alike, the team chemistry has a large part to do with the Knights’ success, and the women seem to have focused on making it stronger. In addition to all of the juniors living together, the women have created a family dynamic that will surely fuel their season.
With the beginning of the season upon them, both Ciotti and Hemer expressed the team’s eagerness to channel their energy toward actual games. The women’s first home game will take place on Nov. 21 against Morrisville State College.