WILLIAMSPORT — Three all-conference selections return from a Lycoming College women’s basketball team that reached the MAC Commonwealth Championship game in 2018-19 and finished 18-9 overall. Four players return that have significant starting experience in their careers.
Expectations entering the 2019-20 campaign which begins this Friday at Drew University’s Rose City Classic, are as high as they have been at any time in head coach Christen Ditzler’s 27 years at the helm of the Warriors.
However, this is still a team selected to finish behind Messiah, ranked 20th in the D3hoops.com poll, and Widener, who had three different games with the Warriors decided by a single point in 2018-19, the preseason favorite in the conference’s coach’s poll.
Championships are hard to win and they aren’t won in November, but the goal is clear this year, with a group of five seniors that have come to the cusp of a title and the school’s first NCAA Tournament bid since 1997, that the Warriors are going to try to make their last go-round in the MAC Commonwealth a memorable one.
“Obviously, we are blessed with some really talented players that are really competitive. But we have a lot to learn about the game and each other between November and February,” said Ditzler. “We have to get better defensively. We have to communicate better. We have to have our senior leaders be senior leaders. I think the one thing that the players who were here last year should have taken from our seniors last season is how being detail-oriented, how hustling all the time, how doing all those little things leads to results.
“If we think that we can just roll the ball on the court and win, we are not going to be successful. Thankfully, I think this group is up to the challenge ahead of us,” added Ditzler.
BackcourtLed by senior Akilah McFadden, a graduate of Lewisburg Area High School, the Warriors return a backcourt which features four significant contributors to the team’s success in 2018-19.
McFadden, who has developed into a full-time point guard during her career, is an athletic force in the backcourt. She is the only Lycoming player listed in the top 10 in career assists (235, seventh), steals (178, seventh) and blocked shots (68, eighth). She averaged 12.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.9 assists as a junior, while leading the team with 61 steals.
Junior Sydney Purcell will also see time at the point guard position after appearing in 23 games in her first season with the team, averaging 1.0 point and 0.8 assists. Senior Courtney Treude and freshmen Emily Zoscin will both also work for time taking the ball up the court.
In the two shooting guard slots, the Warriors will look to replace two starters from last season, but will turn to a set of five experienced players to find time in the lineup throughout the season.
Senior Morgan Mader leads the group, as the 5-foot-8 guard returns from a season-ending injury during her junior year. In five games last season, she averaged 12.0 points and 2.8 3-pointers made per game. A fearless shooter, she has averaged 34 percent from beyond-the-arc in her career.
Sophomores Kelly Vuz, Alex Jones and Allison Wagner will also battle for time throughout the season. Vuz provided some toughness and grit in Lycoming’s stretch run, as she averaged 4.4 points, 1.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 15.1 minutes as a rookie. Jones averaged 2.1 points and 1.2 rebounds in 7.4 minutes as a freshmen after scoring 1,115 points in high school. Wagner, a tough-minded defensive player, will also make an impact after averaging 1.3 points and 2.1 rebounds in 12.0 minutes as a freshman.
Megan Helminiak will also earn key minutes, as the senior has worked to become a defensive stopper and she can also hit the three, as she shot 38 percent from deep in 2018-19. Freshman Diana Rantz will also work for time in the lineup as a swing guard.
“We have some really talented players in the backcourt and there is going to be some tough competition,” said Ditzler. “Akilah is just so dynamic. She can play point guard or play off the ball. When she’s active defensively, she is so hard to get past. She makes plays defensively that lead to easy points.”
FrontcourtWith two all-conference players returning in the frontcourt, the Warriors feature on paper one of the best frontcourts in the region.
Senior Kayla Kline, a graduate of Mifflinburg Area High School, will shift between the No. 3 and No. 4 positions on the floor. A fierce competitor, Kline averaged 14.5 points and 9.0 rebounds per game, both of which were fifth-most in the league. She posted 11 double-doubles and also averaged 2.5 assists per game.
Junior Erica Lutz enjoyed a breakthrough season as the team’s No. 5, averaging 13.1 points and 9.2 rebounds, third-most in the conference as a junior. She also finished second in the league in blocks (2.1) and gives the team a tough inside presence, posting nine double-doubles during the season.
Sophomore Ryanna Lamoreaux could step into a larger role this year, as she will battle for time in the No. 4 slot with freshman Tess Arnold, who won three section titles in high school. Junior Molly Ball, a second-team all-region selection at Sayre, and freshman Kenzie Reed, a two-time all-league pick in high school, will work for time at the No. 5 slot.
“Kayla is, like Akilah, just so athletic that she can do so many things to help the team. She can score, rebound, run the floor, pass and shoot inside and outside,” said Ditzler.”Erica is also dynamic at the No. 5 position, but has a different skill set than Kayla. Defensively, she can use her long arms to alter so many shots inside. She is quick on her feet and gets to the ball for rebounds. Offensively, she plays so well with her back to the basket and has nice touch at the free throw line. They are both incredibly smart and usually stay out of foul trouble.
“Those are things we’re going to need them to continue to do. When they are off the floor, we are not going to ask the younger players to provide everything that they provide. All six post players are going to have to provide that,” added Lycoming’s coach.