The Utica College women’s basketball team kicks off the 2015-2016 season with a home matchup against SUNY Potsdam on Saturday, November 14 at 3 p.m.
The Pioneers will be led into battle by head coach Michele Davis and assistant coach Meghan Soja.
A major point of emphasis for the Pioneers this season will be on their defense. The Pioneers will look to utilize their experienced and athletic guards to propel their full court defense.
“We like to press and we are probably pressing 90-95 percent of the time off of made baskets or free throws,” Davis said. “I think having that heavy set of guards, those athletic people being able to read things and kind of move around will help us.”
There are six freshmen and six sophomores on this year’s roster, so Davis will look to her seniors and juniors to help teach the younger players the ways of collegiate basketball.
Senior guard Mary Miceli is very optimistic about the expected contributions from the freshmen and sophomore classes.
“Our sophomores have also stepped up and we’ve got a group of freshmen that are still learning but improve every day,” Miceli said.
Another area that the Pioneers will look to improve on is free throw shooting. In the 2014 season, the Pioneers attempted 286 more free throws than their opponents, but were only able to capitalize on 57 percent of them.
“If we can get those free throw percentages up and stay consistent throughout the year, which is a huge goal for us, I think that could help us push into the playoffs,” Davis said.
On offense the Pioneers will look to attack in transition and create scoring opportunities with their defense. Sophomore guard Amanda Henderson enjoys the fast-paced style that Davis teaches.
“We like to run the ball in transition, and press a lot,” Henderson said. “We are a really quick athletic team so we look to force teams to turn over the ball.”
The Pioneers will also have to adjust to the new NCAA rule changes for women’s basketball. The new rules include the implementation of four 10-minute quarters as opposed to the traditional 20-minute halves.
According to the NCAA Women’s Basketball Rules Committee, which initially recommended the rule change, the four-quarter format will enhance the flow of the game.
It was a rare disappointing season for Davis and the Pioneers who finished with a record of 11-13 last season. Davis, who is the program’s all-time leader in wins, recorded her 200th win last season and currently has a record of 201-164.
While remembering the tough times of last season, the Pioneers want to move past them and will have their first game action that counts on Saturday.
The Pioneers faced SUNY Potsdam in their opening game last season and were able to win the matchup by a score of 65 -54.
Davis will look to model last season’s success against Potsdam by attacking the paint and getting to the free throw line.
“If we can get ourselves to the free throw line 30 times on Saturday I think that’s going to help us because we are going to be able to stop the clock, were going to be able to set up the press off of free throws and again it’s time to rest,” Davis said. “So I am excited and looking forward to it.”