Dec. 30, 2008
Siena is excited to get back on the court in 2008-09 and try to recapture the success they've traditionally enjoyed. The program has historically been a MAAC frontrunner under head coach Gina Castelli, but recently the team has experienced some growing pains.
The Saints have a 193-116 all-time record in the league with seven regular-season championships and one tournament title (2001). This year, the team will enjoy a home-court advantage in the MAAC Championships as they gun for their second NCAA appearance in program history at Times Union Center in Albany, N.Y.
With the loss of four starters, including Laura Menty, Melissa Manzer and Liga Alpe-Luka all having graduated in May, preseason competition will decide a new lineup. Menty was a two-time MAAC First Team selection and led the league in scoring last year with 19.1 points per game. Castelli has brought in five newcomers, including two junior transfers and three freshmen to help fill the void.
"It's an exciting time for us with so many new players," said Castelli. "We're looking forward to our returning players stepping up and the freshman and junior transfers adding a new dimension."
Senior captain Heather Stec returns for her fifth year. Last season she led the Saints in rebounding with 8.6 boards per game. Stec missed the first ten games of the season due to injury, but started the last 19 at forward. Her leadership will also be a key for a team welcoming five new players.
"As our only captain, Stec is a leader on this team," said Castelli. "She's a great offensive and defensive rebounder who constantly outworks the opponent. She's a great example for young players to learn from."
Junior Merrick Volpe brings experience to the backcourt. Volpe has played in 51 games during her career and knows how to control the tempo of the game.
Also returning is sophomore Missy Ramsey. Ramsey is a tough guard who played in seven games last year.
Charlieann Chacon and Allie Lindemann are the two junior transfers joining the squad. Chacon transferred from Mesa Community College in Arizona where she was an ACCAC (Arizona Community College Athletic Conference) Third Team selection as a freshman. Last season, she averaged 11.1 points and 4.8 assists per game, while breaking the single-season assists record at her school with 155.
Lindemann, a transfer from Kirkwood Community College (Iowa), comes from a winning background. She led Kirkwood to a 72-7 record and back-to-back Junior College National Championships the past two years. She will see time at guard and forward.
Freshman Cristina Centeno is an intense player who can play a number of different positions. Centeno played off guard for Marist High School where she finished her career as the eighth all-time leading scorer. As a senior, Centeno guided Marist to the Conference, Hudson County and Non-Public North Jersey State Championships. This past summer she played in the post for the Puerto Rico Junior National Team in Argentina.
Freshman Brittany Wilwohl is a guard out of Erie, Pa. She was a three-year starter at Villa Maria Academy and was named Regional Player of the Year as a senior.
"Brittany has really impressed us during workouts," said Castelli. "She's a tough and smart player that's shown she can score in many different ways."
Stec, a Preseason MAAC Third Team pick, returns as a solid inside presence who can rebound and disrupt shooters on the defensive end. Offensively, her versatility allows her to post up and run the court in transition.
Returning with Stec in the frontcourt is classmate Jess Edmonds, juniors Sarah Fullmer and Sara Parnell and sophomores Serena Moore and Cathy Cockrum. Edmonds appeared in 23 games last season and gives depth to the frontcourt. Fullmer started 10 of 28 games a year ago, shooting 49% from the field. In her career, she's a 50% shooter.
"Sarah's really improved her individual skills this summer," Castelli said. "Every year she comes into preseason in better shape and with more confidence."
Parnell is a versatile player who has appeared in 27 games in her first two years.
Moore played 26 games in her first season, offering an athletic option off the bench. Last year she showed the potential of becoming a breakout power forward. Her combination of size, speed and athleticism makes her a dangerous player for opponents to deal with.
Cockrum appeared in 24 games last season and makes the switch to forward this year. She provides additional depth off the bench.
Freshman Maja Gerlyng arrives from Denmark and continues the program's long line of European players. Gerlyng is an athletic player who saw time at guard and small forward for her hometown 79ers club team. Last season she averaged 7.6 points per game and shot 46% from beyond the 3-point line. This past summer she played for Denmark in the Nordic Championships.
"We are happy with the development of our five newcomers," said Castelli. "They are skilled and talented and bring much needed depth. With so many new players it could take some time for our team to gel on the court, but because of their work ethic and willingness to learn we hope it's a quick transition."
Siena faces an extremely difficult schedule in 2008-09. The Saints play a tough nine-game non-conference slate in addition to the always challenging MAAC schedule. Seven of the eight non-conference opponents had winning records last year.
"We are excited to begin the 2008-09 season with a very competitive and challenging non-conference schedule," said Castelli. "This schedule includes teams from a variety of conferences with many unique styles of play. Every non-league game will help prepare us for MAAC play."
Siena opens the season at home against Syracuse (Nov. 14) in Loudonville and Rhode Island (Nov. 17) at the Times Union Center as part of a doubleheader with the men's team.
The Saints go on the road to play at Boston University (Nov. 20), before a two-game road trip to Eastern Michigan (Nov. 24) and Oakland [Mich.] (Nov. 26). The team returns home to play Harvard for the first of two meetings November 30.
The MAAC schedule starts with the annual Western New York road trip at Canisius on (Dec. 5) and at Niagara (Dec. 7).
Siena participates in the Women of Troy Basketball Classic hosted by the University of Southern California where they will play Harvard (Dec. 19) and Duke (Dec. 20). The non-conference schedule ends with a home-game against James Madison (Dec. 30).
The Saints visit Saint Peter's (Jan. 4) before coming back to the Capital District for a four-game home stand against Rider (Jan. 9 on ESPNU) at the TUC and Niagara (Jan. 11), Iona (Jan. 16), and Marist (Jan. 18) on UHY Court in Alumni Recreation Center. The team next hits the road for games with Manhattan (Jan. 23), Rider (Jan. 25), and Fairfield (Jan. 29).
Another two-week home-stand brings Manhattan (Feb. 1), Loyola (Feb. 6), Canisius (Feb. 8), and Saint Peter's (Feb. 13) to Loudonville. The Saints travel to Iona (Feb. 15) and then return home to host Fairfield (Feb. 20) before concluding the regular-season with games at Marist (Feb. 22) and Loyola (Feb. 28).
The MAAC Tournament returns to the Times Union Center March 5-8. Most of the tournament will be televised as part of the MAAC television package.