Oct. 23, 2012
It's a whole new ballgame in Loudonville this winter.
First-year head coach Ali Jaques has taken the reins of the women's basketball program, igniting excitement and high hopes for Capital Region fans.
"Our fans will love coming to our games," said Jaques. "They will see a tough, hard-nosed team. We will bring a lot of intensity on defense and play to our strengths on offense."
Jaques brings a great pedigree to Siena College with 14 years of Division I coaching experience. The Rosemont, N.J. native spent the past four years at Northwestern University, serving as associate head coach the past two seasons. During her time in Evanston, Jaques worked as recruiting coordinator for a program that boasted the 14th ranked recruiting class in the nation in 2011 and the 20th ranked recruiting class in 2009 according to ESPN Hoopgurlz.
Jaques inherits a program that finished 12-17 last season and tied for fourth in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference at 9-9. While the Saints did graduate two established performers - Cristina Centeno and Maja Gerlyng - they return 2011-12 MAAC First Team selection Lily Grenci, who is joined by a hungry young nucleus looking to lead the program back to the top of the conference.
"Our goal will always be to compete for championships," added Jaques. "Some people might think this unrealistic, but I think that always has to be the goal."
Grenci is a MAAC Player of the Year candidate after enjoying a breakout season last year. She ranked second in the conference in scoring averaging 15.2 points per game, and her 7.8 rebounds per contest ranked third.
Grenci maintains a 3.85 cumulative GPA in sociology, and has been awarded entry into the College's Sociology Honors Society - Phi Kappa Delta. The team's lone senior is a member of the athletic department's 4.0 Club and was one of 11 student athletes named to the I-AAA Athletics Directors Association Scholar Athlete Team.
"Lily is a seasoned player," noted Jaques. "She is playing with a lot of confidence as a senior should. She's worked very hard to become the player she is and I'm excited to watch her teammates rally for her."
While Grenci is the unquestioned veteran leader of the program, sophomore Tehresa Coles is the face of the future. A budding star right from Loudonville who attended Colonie Central, Coles electrified Siena fans with her tremendous intensity, speed and athleticism last season.
Juniors Clara Sole Anglada and Kanika Cummings had breakout seasons last year and were among the team's top performers over the final month. Sole Anglada emerged as the team's number two scoring threat to Grenci, averaging 11 points and 7.4 rebounds. Sole Anglada shot 41% from 3-point range over the final 10 games, and Cummings came off the bench to average 6.7 points while shooting 50% from the floor over that same period.
Allison Mullings began the season as the starting point guard before tearing her ACL eight minutes into the season opener. Mullings has worked hard to get back to full strength in the offseason. She is part of a six-member junior class that has accumulated the experience and leadership skills necessary to have an impactful year.
Siena tips the 2012-13 season November 9 at the Times Union Center against Fairleigh Dickinson in the front end of a doubleheader with the men's team. The men's and women's programs will be showcased together twice more in the state capital this season - for the Albany Cup vs. UAlbany December 1st - and again on January 13th when the women host Manhattan.
"We have a really challenging schedule," said Jaques. "I have tremendous respect for the coaches and the programs we will face night in and night out."
Of Siena's 29 regular season games, 14 take place in the Capital Region, including 10 dates that fall on either a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, providing a very fan-friendly schedule.
On November 20, the Saints welcome nearly 2,000 local schoolchildren to the ARC for the annual Kid's Day Game as part of the Adopt-A-School program. February 15 marks the 13th Annual Pink Zone Game raising awareness and money for the Capital Region Action Against Breast Cancer, a cause which the Saints helped to raise more than $25,000 for last year.
The Saints take their first aim at fulfilling Coach Jaques' goal of winning a MAAC Championship in March. Siena will look for the program's second ever conference championship March 7-11 at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Mass.
With a renewed energy and focus and with excitement at a near fever pitch, Saints fans are sure to enjoy a new ballgame on showcase this winter.