By Lucas McCoy
With the regular season less than one week away, the Salisbury University women’s basketball team will enter the 2016-2017 season in hopes of improving upon last season. The Sea Gulls finished with a 13-13 record last year, but have many returning players this season that can bring more experience and confidence to the court.
With many new players at practice and a new mentality, the Sea Gulls are ready to put last season behind them. It is a new season and a new team with more experience, and Salisbury has hopes of making it back to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III Tournament, a place they were just two seasons ago.
“I think every year is just a new year. There are new faces and new chemistry, so we’re not really thinking so much about last year as opposed to what we need to do this year,” SU head coach Kelly Lewandowski said.
“We are very excited that we have more experience this year. A lot of the freshman and sophomores I think are now more confident going into games with having a year or two of experience under their belt.”
Salisbury finished last season only averaging 59.3 points per game, which was less than six other teams in the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC). The Sea Gulls will have to find efficient ways of scoring as a team in order to replace last season’s standout senior forward Julia McLaughlin and her 15.1 points per game.
“Obviously Julia provided a lot for us on the court, especially with her leadership and experience being a senior,” Lewandowski said. “But I think that being able to play a lot of freshman and sophomores last year will help us grow knowing that we have more experience this year.”
Senior guard Lauren Rothfeld will be the one to fill McLaughlin’s shoes this season, being one of the most experienced players on the team. Rothfeld is the only four-year player Salisbury has on their roster, and is ready to be a leader for her team.
“I definitely have to form a different role on the team for myself. Every year I have been behind strong captains and a strong senior class, so we’ve been working on me being more of a vocal leader in practice,” Rothfeld said.
The Sea Gulls lost 13 games last year, seven of which were decided by 10 points or less. Salisbury was a predominantly young team, but with more than 10 players returning this season, expectations are high that the accumulated experience will be able to carry them to more victories.
“I expect us to come out strong and start the season off right. We know what we have to do and have been working really hard, and we just need to come out in the first game with the confidence that we can execute everything we know that we can do,” sophomore guard and forward Kaylyn French explained.
Last season, due to a lack of experience, confidence was the main characteristic lacking in the team. The Sea Gulls finished last season averaging the third most turnovers per game in the CAC. Salisbury will need to take better care of the ball this year and limit mistakes in order to get back to a winning record.
“I think rebounding is always something very important for us to work on,” Lewandowski explained. “Just being confident and strong with the ball as well as decreasing our turnovers will be the main things for us this year.” Since losing their top scorer from last year, the Sea Gulls will need to find ways to get more players involved in their offense instead of just focusing on key players to put points on the scoreboard. “Compared to last year, this year we have a lot more outgoing people, meaning that more people are looking to score,” French said.
“The talent is really spread out this year, but last year we focused on a few main people trying to score for us. This year I feel the scoring will be a lot more spread out because we have a lot of variation at each position instead of just having main scorers.”
With the 2015-2016 season in the rearview mirror, the Salisbury University women’s basketball team looks to begin the season confident and strong against Virginia Wesleyan College at home in their first game of the regular season on Tuesday, Nov. 15 at 5:30 p.m.