New year brings new coaching staff and expectations for women’s basketball


Head Coach Gabby Holko speaks with the team. (Photo credit/ Carey Action Photography; Photo courtesy of Marywood Athletics)

Brendan Murphy

Marywood’s women’s basketball team is coming off a 15-13 season and another disappointing loss in the Colonial States Athletic Conference (CSAC) semi-final to Cabrini University in February. The Pacers fought hard against the eventual conference champions, holding an eight-point lead heading into the fourth quarter of that game. Cabrini then went on a huge run spoiling the Pacers’ title hopes.

Two months later, veteran head coach Tara Macciocco left the Pacers after 14 seasons to become the new head coach at Wilkes University. First team all-conference guard Gab Giordano followed suit and transferred to Wilkes. CSAC Rookie of the Year Erika Bistran opted not to play this year as well.

With Macciocco gone, a new regime has taken over the squad with the arrival of Head Coach Gabby Holko. Holko was an assistant coach at Lackawanna College last season and helped lead the Falcons to a 25-5 record.

The Pittsburgh native played four years at Westminster (Pa.) College from 2010 to 2014 and was named Most Valuable Player in her senior season. Holko will look to make an impact in her first season at the helm.

Coach Holko is a firm believer in playing up-tempo and creating havoc for opposing teams, but with a limited roster, she understands that it will be tough to press for an entire game.

“I really like to play fast,” Holko said. “With pressing 40 minutes a game, forcing a lot of turnovers and turning our offense into a transition game rather than setting things up, but with only 11 players, playing that style can’t happen as much as I want it to.”

With a lot of new faces, the Pacers have been working hard to develop chemistry with each other on and off the court.

“Our chemistry on the court is absolutely amazing,” Holko said. “Being that we only have 11 players, the newcomers have had immediate playing time.”

The Pacers only have two upperclassmen on the team this year; both are seniors. Alyssa Olson and Natasha Hessling will need to lead by example in order for this young Pacers squad to be successful this season.

Coach Holko is amazed at the chemistry Hessling and Olson have together and that they have developed with the rest of the team.

“They see each other on the court without even seeing each other,” Holko said. “They’re just so used to playing with each other and I think our sophomores are now getting that with Alyssa and Natasha as well as the first year players, which is really fun.”

Without Giordano and Bistran, the Pacers lack a true star. However, having a team full of players who excel in their roles, the team seems poised to make a run. After being picked to finish fifth in the brand new Atlantic East Conference, the team has some extra motivation.

“When you’re the underdog, people don’t think you’re going to come out as good as you are,” Holko said. “When you prove people wrong, it’s kind of like ‘Okay, see, you shouldn’t have doubted us.’”

The Pacers will look to reach the conference playoffs for a 10th consecutive season and hope to bring home the first ever Atlantic East Conference championship. The Pacers finished their first week of play at 2-1, dropping their opener to Franklin and Marshall before notching Coach Holko’s first two wins, an 82-76 triumph over Wilkes University and a 69-66 come-from-behind win over King’s College to clinch a share of the Cross County Challenge title with the University of Scranton.

The Pacers face a tough test tonight when they look to take down eighth ranked Scranton in a battle for bragging rights in the Electric City.

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