Nov. 14, 2009
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Siena at Illinois
The Saints open the 2009-10 season at Illinois Sunday at 5 p.m. (Eastern time). It will be the first ever meeting between these two teams.
Siena has a 17-17 all-time record in season openers. Illinois (0-1) lost its season opener 82-78 in overtime at Temple Friday evening. Illinois was up by 16 points with 5:51 left in regulation, but the Owls went on a 17-1 run to finish regulation and force overtime.
Tradition of Success
It's a milestone year for Gina Castelli who enters her 20th season as Siena head coach and is one win away from 300 in her career. Castelli has been the symbol of consistency, averaging 15.7 wins/year, posting seven 20+ win seasons, winning seven MAAC Regular Season Championships and one MAAC Tournament Title. The five-time MAAC Coach of the Year wants to lead her team back to the promised land...the NCAA Tournament.
Siena returns four starters and 77% of its offense from last season. What was once a young and inexperienced squad, is now seasoned and hungry for success. This team is battle tested with big road games, nationally ranked opponents and tournament-play.
Senior Allie Lindemann and sophomore Cristina Centeno made an immediate impact for the Saints in their first season while returnees Merrick Volpe, Sarah Fullmer and Cathy Cockrum stepped into prominent roles.
Lindemann, a junior transfer, dropped 20 points on Syracuse in the home opener last season. Teams need vigilance when finding her on the court and defending her 3-point prowess. Lindemann ranked second in the league with 2.4 3-pointers/game and was second on the team with 10.6 points/game. She tied for the third most 3-pointers (68) in a single season in school history. Centeno brings a physical presence to the backcourt and can create for others. She is the only freshman since Siena went Division I to lead the team in assists (101). As a true freshman, she played the third most minutes on the team. Her versatility allows her to be effective at the one, two or three.
Volpe, a senior guard, stepped into a leadership role as the season progressed a year ago. She's played in 75 career games and started her final 17 games last season. Her game improved to the point that she averaged 8.9 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists in the month of February.
"Merrick has provided valuable vocal leadership this season," Castelli said. "She has also been a great leader by example in the improvements she made to her physical conditioning and her game. I expect this diligent preparation will propel her to having a great senior year."
The coaching staff is hoping for big seasons from senior Charlieann Chacon and sophomores Brittany Wilwohl and Maja Gerlyng who are all entering their second years at Siena. Chacon transferred in from Mesa Community College prior to last season. She has great vision and can put her teammates in the position to score. She showed flashes of her potential like in the game at Oakland when she scored 11 points and had five assists, four rebounds and two steals in 21 minutes.
Wilwohl showed why she was recruited in her first collegiate game. She scored 19 points against Syracuse, hitting pull-ups and driving to the hoop. Gerlyng is an athletic player who got much stronger in the offseason. She played in 26 games as a freshman.
Junior guard Missy Ramsey is a lockdown defensive player who played in 13 games last season. She worked hard in the offseason to improve her offensive skills.
Senior Sarah Fullmer and junior Serena Moore complement each other well in the front court and provide one of the best 1-2 punches in the league. Fullmer is a skilled offensive player whose range can bring forwards out of the paint. She ranked in the MAAC's top-5 in field goal percentage (5th - .475) and blocks/game (2nd - 1.4) and was a MAAC Sixth Player nominee last season. She's made great strides with her rebounding, more than doubling her average from the year before (2.4 to 5.0).
"Sarah Fullmer has always been a quiet and effective role player," Castelli said. "A great leader must first show she can follow and because Sarah has shown this through the years I believe she is more than ready to become a go-to post player this season. She is a versatile scoring post player that allows us to use her in many different offensive scenarios."
Moore is an athletic specimen who can slash to the hoop offensively and alter shots on the defensive end with her length and jumping ability. She averaged 7.8 points and 4.5 rebounds last season. Moore can match up with any team in the country and plays her best in big games. She scored 15 points (6-10 from the field) and had seven rebounds and three steals against No. 8 Duke. She matched a career-high for points (16) and set a career-high for rebounds (8) in the MAAC Tournament quarterfinals against Fairfield.
Another player who stepped in and filled her role was Cathy Cockrum. The junior forward is a physical player who does all the little things a team needs to win. She crashes the offensive glass and plays with a focused intensity. Cockrum scored a career-high 12 points in her first career start and never left the lineup.
Senior Sara Parnell is a veteran player who should see added minutes with the departure of Heather Stec. Parnell played in 18 games last season and in addition to her low post presence, she can step out and hit long-range shots.
Incoming freshmen Danielle Everson and Lily Grenci will add depth to the balanced frontcourt. Everson, a 5-11 forward from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, scored 1,083 points and had 1,180 rebounds in her four-year career at Central Dauphin East High School. Grenci, a 5-10 forward from Mars, Pennsylvania is the all-time leading scorer at Mars High School with 1,718 career points. They will add depth to one of the stronger frontcourts in the MAAC.
"In general both our backcourt and frontcourt players have improved their game," Castelli said. "Every player put in the extra time this offseason and because of that everyone has shown that they can give us more production on the court. We are a more experienced team this year, as opposed to last season when we had five new players. This should also bring more certainty on the floor resulting in better offensive and defensive execution."