The University’s women’s basketball team ranks as the fifth best team in the nation for Division III schools.
After winning the Landmark Conference championship last season and taking it all the way to the Elite 8 round of the NCAA tournament, the Lady Royals have big expectations for the coming season.
After losing two starters to graduation, the team has big spots to fill before for its first game in mid-November.
However, the team is confident in its youth and has already seen a chemistry develop between the veterans and the rookies.
Senior Denise Rizzo explained how the Lady Royals have already come together to form a bond that will be imperative for success throughout the season.
“Reworking the chemistry with the new players is all a part of the team dynamics. This year we have five really talented freshmen on our team as well as all of the returning players from last season. I feel that the veterans have really stepped up to help the freshmen adjust, and just as they are learning from us, we are learning from them,” Rizzo said.
Rizzo also noted that a core part of the team’s success will come from the three returning starters.
“Our strengths also lie specifically within three of our returning players — Sarah Payonk, Alexix Roman, and Bridgette Mann. The high-low game between Payonk and Roman is a force to be reckoned with and Bridgette Mann, last season’s Rookie of the Year, is an unbelievable player. Having these three players on our team gives us a huge advantage, and I am positive that they will continue to be a main strength for our team,” Rizzo said.
The team looks to repeat its success of last season, hopefully coming close to its almost perfect record of 30-1.
Payonk noted that this season will come with new challenges.
“Being ranked No. 5 in the nation means that there’s a lot of expectation from our team. Every night we’re out there we have to make sure we’re playing our best because it puts a target on our back and makes us a team to beat,” Payonk said.
Rizzo also noted that the team will be careful not to let the ranking go to its head.
“I think that being ranked fifth in the nation for D3 schools is a great honor, and our entire team is excited about it; however, rankings really mean nothing. They are based off of how we did last year and who is returning this year, and although we had a fantastic last season we are a different team this year, and the two are unrelated,” Rizzo said.
The Lady Royals will first take the court on 3 p.m. Nov. 18 against Mount Union College