SALISBURY, Md. – The Salisbury University women's basketball team is coming off of its second-consecutive 15-win season and Capital Athletic Conference tournament semifinal game under Head Coach Kelly Lewandowski. Entering the third season of Lewandowski's tenure, the Sea Gulls now look to build on their success and compete for the conference championship.
"I expect us to fight to be in the top portion of our conference again this year," Lewandowski said. "I think with our experience coming back and, also, the depth with our new players that we should be really competitive and compete as one of the top teams in the conference."
With 10 returning players from last season and a few key transfers and freshmen additions, SU comes into the 2013-14 season with an abundance of experience and depth that will power the team, as the Gulls look to build on last season's finish in the CAC.
"I think we are going to be a lot deeper. We have 16 players on the roster, and we are very confident in all 16 that we can put them in a game to help us out at different times," Lewandowski said.
The Sea Gull backcourt will be headlined by junior point guard Anna Hackett, in her third season with Salisbury. Hackett was the CAC Rookie of the Year and an All-CAC second-team member after her freshman season, and she encored with a first-team All-CAC selection last year, after tying for the conference lead with 16.4 points per game.
"Anna is going to provide a lot of on-court leadership," Lewandowski said. "I think now that she has the experience, she has really improved, even in the last year, and has really taken on the role as the leader on the court."
Junior transfer Sarah Seipp looks to join Hackett in the starting backcourt, as she brings the Sea Gulls another player with a pedigree similar to Hackett's. The duo will work together in the one-guard and two-guard positions as scorers and facilitators.
"Now that we have Sarah Seipp, we will rely on both of them to take turns. They are interchangeable at the point so whoever gets the ball in their hands will have the opportunity to set up the offense," Lewandowski said.
Seipp comes to Salisbury from Virginia Wesleyan College, where she was the 2012 Old Dominion Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year and a first-team All-ODAC selection and a 2013 second-team All-ODAC selection. The Gaithersburg, Md., native brings a lot of energy to the roster, along with a top-notch work ethic.
Returning guards, junior Courtney McManus and senior Kelsey Verica, both look to provide valuable experience and leadership to the team. McManus has a pivotal role in stretching the court for the Sea Gulls, as she led the team with 54 three-point field goals and a .348 three-point percentage last season, while her 8.2 points per game rank third on the team for the returning players.
Verica is the team's only returning senior, and she brings more experience to the floor, as she saw time in 26 games last season. Her production proved valuable in CAC play as she shot .447 from the field and .381 from the three-point line in 11 conference games.
Sophomores, Meagan Price and Theano Alvanos, and freshman Lauren Rothfeld all will provide valuable depth to the Sea Gulls' back court, helping to run the offense from the point and push the ball in transition. Price returns to the SU backcourt after playing in 14 games as a freshman, with two starts, while Alvanos joins the Gulls as a transfer this season. Rothfeld enters her first season with Salisbury and provides a versatile and athletic option; at 5-foot-9, she will give the flexibility of being able to defend inside and outside.
McLaughlin was the 2012-13 CAC Rookie of the Year after finishing third on the team with 8.4 points per game and fourth with 4.1 rebounds per game last season. She came on strong at the end of the season, scoring in double-digits in five of the Sea Gulls' last six games, including a season-high 21 points against Frostburg State University on Feb. 9 and a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds against St. Mary's College of Maryland on Feb. 19.
Himes stepped in to make an immediate impact for SU, starting 20 of her 24 games played last season, while ranking fifth on the team with 5.4 points per game and third with 5.1 rebounds per game. She also shot .410 percent from the field, good for second among players with more than 50 field goal attempts.
"Julia has that experience, that confidence now, so we are excited for her sophomore year. She also has a quickness that I think is hard for some post players to guard," Lewandowski said. "Becca is your all-around solid player. She is consistent and strong in all areas of the game."
Salisbury is welcoming junior transfer Melanie Mocniak, this season, as she joins the Sea Gulls from Division I Mount St. Mary's University. She played in 21 games in her two seasons with the Mountaineers, including appearing in 17 last season.
Mocniak looks to provide depth in the post, along with freshman addition Kristin Yuan. Salisbury is also returning junior Aleisha Hobbs and sophomore Kathy Albornoz. Hobbs played in 17 games last season, while averaging 4.0 points and 5.5 rebounds per game, good for second on the team, and Albornoz played in 19 games, while making one start.
Freshman Cassie Ullrich joins the Sea Gulls this season as well to give the team addition depth to the frontcourt.
"We have a tough schedule. I think our team is going to be tougher this year, and we are also playing a really tough schedule," Lewandowski said about Salisbury's nonconference portion of the schedule. "We feel that these games will really prepare us for the tough conference schedule that we have."
Salisbury opens its season on Saturday, Nov. 16 at Johns Hopkins University for the Johns Hopkins Tournament.
The Sea Gulls will host Catholic University of America, an NCAA tournament team last season, on Sunday, Nov. 24 for their first home game, before opening their CAC schedule against St. Mary's on Wednesday, Dec. 4.
There are three teams on the Sea Gulls' schedule that enter the season ranked in the D3hoops.com preseason poll, including two CAC teams. New conference-foe Christopher Newport University enters the season ranked No. 3 and Marymount (Va.) University sits at No. 21. SU will also play No. 6 Montclair State University when the Gulls travel to Puerto Rico for the San Juan Shootout.
Along with CNU, the CAC also added Penn State University-Harrisburg and Southern Virginia University, strengthening an already tough conference.
"I think that our conference is very competitive. I think that a lot of teams have a chance to win the whole thing," Lewandowski said. "The additions are only going to add in a positive way; it's just going to make us all work harder."
Following the regular season, Salisbury will look to make its postseason run with the CAC tournament beginning on Feb. 25, 2014.