Women’s Basketball 2017 Preview: Getting back in the CSAC championship hunt

Kyle Clouse, Nick Marotta, Rachael Eyler , and John Ferraro


Photo credit/ Kyle Clouse

John Ferraro, Sports Editor

The Marywood University women’s basketball team is only seven games into a very long regular season. While the team has only four more games in 2016, it’s the 2017 schedule that will be the difference in making or missing the playoffs.

Starting on Jan. 3, the Pacers begin a stretch of 14 straight Colonial States Athletic Conference (CSAC) games. It’s a backloaded schedule, but a schedule that the Pacers are familiar with.

Last season, the Pacers finished with 15 straight CSAC games to end the year and went 14-1 during that stretch, earning the team a #1 seed in the CSAC playoff.

The 2016-17 Pacers currently sit at 4-3 overall with a 1-1 record in the conference. While they look to stay atop the conference, it’s going to be more of a challenge this season, according to their Head Coach Tara Macciocco.

Macciocco is in her 13th season as women’s basketball head coach and understands the challenges that the Pacers face coming off last year.

Macciocco says that leadership is the biggest difference in this season’s team.

“We graduated four seniors [last year] who were four of the best leaders I’ve ever had,” said Macciocco.

Those four seniors were crucial in getting the Pacers to the #1 seed. Macciocco spoke about what the Pacers do have this season.

“We have two juniors who have been stepping up a little bit more and more vocal. But, I think at any point [our] freshman might step up and become leaders,” Macciocco said.

The Pacers also return 2015-16 CSAC Rookie of the Year and ECAC Division III South Region Rookie of the Year Gabby Giordano. Giordano averaged 13 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 2 assists last year.

Macciocco looks for even bigger things this season from her sophomore guard.

“She worked really hard in the offseason to get stronger. She is probably in the best shape of her life. I think she is focused on playing on both ends of the floor and it could be scary if she does that,” said Macciocco.

Another player to watch for Macciocco is sophomore center Natasha Hessling.

“She can get off the floor and rebounds very well. She is like a magnet for the basketball,” Macciocco said.

In seven games this season, Hessling is averaging 12.6 points and 5.6 rebounds. She has had three games with seven plus rebounds.

Macciocco also spoke about a player that could surprise many this season, sophomore guard Alyssa Olson.

“She came back in really good shape and worked her butt off over the summer. She is really good at getting to the basket and finishing,” said Macciocco.

Looking beyond the dynamics of the team, Macciocco spoke about the strength of the CSAC this year.
“I think Gwynedd Mercy is going to be really good. I think they are going to be the team to beat in the league,” she said.

The Griffins only lost two seniors to graduation last year and are currently 2-0 in the CSAC, winning both those games by over 30 points each.

Macciocco hopes to be in the mix with Cabrini University and Neumann University. Neumann beat the Pacers in last season’s CSAC semifinal game before losing to Cabrini in the title game.

The Pacers, however, handled Neumann last Saturday with a 20 point rout. They hope to continue that success into that 14 game CSAC stretch.

To get through that stretch, Macciocco has one message she preaches to her team.

“Work hard. You have to work hard every single day you come into practice.” Macciocco continued, “Every time you step into the gym, outwork your opponent. If you outwork your opponent, you put yourself in a position to win at the end of the game.”

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Twitter: @JohnFerraro21