Women’s basketball hopes to reach new heights

Contributed Photo: Sports Information
The Edinboro women’s basketball team, who returns senior guard/forward Laurel Lindsay (above), is picked first in the PSAC West Preseason Coaches Poll and fifth in the D-II Bulletin preseason poll.
Scots look for more victories

By Tyler Trumbauer
Sports Editor /Spectator

The Edinboro women’s basketball team experienced one of the most magical seasons in program history last year, hoisting the PSAC and Atlantic Regional title on its way to appearing in the Elite Eight round of the NCAA Division II tournament.

One would ask how a team could top such a successful campaign. To head women’s basketball coach Stan Swank, it is quite simple.

“Every year we try to get better,” Swank stated at the local PSAC media day held at Mercyhurst University.

“So last year we made it to the Elite Eight, now what is the next goal, well we try to win the national championship. If you don’t try to win the national championship, how do you know if you should be suiting up?

“We want to go as high as we can go.”

The national championship is certainly within reach for the Scots as the squad ended last season with a 27-6 record, notching the second-highest win total in program history behind the 2011-12 team’s 30 win mark.

Edinboro’s season was ended by Cal Poly Pomona, 81-61, in the Elite Eight round.

The squad seeks to bounce back from that loss and take what they can from that journey.

“It was a tremendous experience for them and for myself,” Swank, the reigning PSAC West Coach of the Year said.

“At the beginning of the year, I thought we could be good if everything fell into place and the planets and the stars did line up for us and things fell into place really well.”

A lot looks to be lining up well for the Fighting Scots this season too. The team returns defending PSAC West Athlete of the Year, Valerie Majewski, who last season averaged 16 ppg and recorded a total of 138 rebounds, 66 steals and 134 assists. The 5-7 guard also was named PSAC Tournament MVP last season.

Even with those numbers, and honors, that also include being a Daktronics Atlantic Region first-team selection and a WBCA and Division II Bulletin All-American, Majewski said it was expected.

“It kind of met my expectations. I knew how talented the team was when I transferred, that is part of the reason why I came here, because I knew how great of a program it was and how great the players were on the team. I expected to go as far as we did and maybe even farther.”

Other returnees from last year include forward/center Aignee’ Freeland and guard/forward Laurel Lindsay. Freeland, who was an All-PSAC first team member last season averaged 14.1 ppg and 9.1 rpg last season.

Additionally, guards Hope Mancini and Lauren Hippo are returning to the lineup as well. Mancini experienced great success last season, averaging 12.2 ppg before an injury took her out for the rest of the season. Hippo provides a three-point threat for Boro as the junior guard shot 48.9 percent from beyond the arc just one year ago.

The key loss for the Scots is Darche’ Jackson. Jackson earned PSAC West Defensive Athlete of the Year, was a second-team All-PSAC West selection and was named Atlantic Regional MVP. She finished in the top ten in school history in both assists and steals for her career.

“You really can’t replace her,” Majewski admitted at media day. “We’re just going to have to try to pick up the pieces a little bit. She could take someone out the game completely. Put her on a team’s best player and they are going to have a difficult time. You can’t really replace her. Everyone is just going to have to step up defensively.”

Swank and his staff will try to fill the void with Anastasia Riabchenko. The 6-6 senior transferred to Boro from West Georgia and originally hails from Munich, Germany.

The forward/center hopes to impact this team in different ways.

“I’m a center, but I’m not as big as a center. I’m quick. I like running fast breaks. I like posting up.”

Edinboro’s success and expected triumphs are realized outside the Boro as well. The squad was picked fifth in the Divison II Bulletin preseason poll. Additionally, the team was selected first in the PSAC West Preseason Coaches’ Poll, which was released at media day late last month. The Scots received seven of the nine first place votes.

Swank admitted that the team takes things one day at a time and doesn’t look at what is possibly down the road, but knows it can be an amazing season. “They are going to see some great women’s basketball,” Swank said when asked what people should expect from his team. “I think we have tremendous talent. They are excited and they want to play. They have things that they want to accomplish. I think when you get players that are hungry and they have some experience and maturity, it helps out that much more.

“I think it’s going to be a great ticket to come watch us play,” he concluded.

The team opens up its 2014-15 campaign by participating in the Atlantic Region Challenge, hosted by Millersville, this Saturday and Sunday. The Scots are scheduled to face Chowan and UVA-Wise, respectively. The ladies open up PSAC play on Nov. 19 at Seton Hill and display in front of the home crowd for the first time on Nov. 22 against California (Pa.).

Tyler Trumbauer is the sports editor for The Spectator. He can be reached by sports.spectator@gmail.com