Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Point Guard Pizzuto Guiding Division III Haverford to New Vistas

By Rob Knox

When Bobbi Morgan agreed to become the head coach of the Haverford women’s basketball program she knew it would be a challenge especially with the Fords coming off of a year when they lost all 18 conference games by double digits.

“Well, I knew that Haverford was a national institution with first class facilities and we got kids from all over, but with a basketball program that wasn’t accustomed to winning,” Morgan said.

“I just figured that with the kind of national recruiting that we could do, that we could improve. I knew it would take time. It has taken time and it was straight up hill. Now, we get great kids from all over the country. Our first goal was to get competitive in the conference, which we did pretty quickly. We didn’t win a lot at first, but we were competitive. Each year we have gotten better and better.”

The numbers support that as the Fords won six games each in Morgan’s first two years. The win total climbed to 10, 18 and 15 with the Fords posting consecutive winning seasons for the first time in program history.

The Fords are no longer a laughingstock. A third straight winning season appears likely as Haverford started the season with eight consecutive victories before suffering its first defeat of the season, 65-48, on the road against nemesis Johns Hopkins Wednesday night at Goldfarb Gym.

“This group has had a great start, but we had a really tough night,” Morgan said. “We are better than that. We started the season with strong wins at Marymount and against The College of New Jersey. I was actually surprised that we started 8-0 because we lost three starters from last year. One good thing about our team is we really have a nice chemistry.”

Haverford (8-1 overall, 4-1 Centennial Conference) has been one of the surprise teams of the Division III season. The Fords were one of four women’s programs in the Mid-Atlantic Region that entered January undefeated.

The Fords’ hot start earned them some votes in the latest d3hoops.com Top 25 poll, which is something that seemed unfathomable when Morgan arrived at the scenic and historic Main Line campus.

In the past losses to Haverford were not looked upon favorably. Morgan remembers beating a conference school in her second year at the helm, and hearing an assistant coach from that team mumble, “How did we lose to Haverford?”

Two weeks ago when speaking to a coach that lost to Haverford earlier this year, the coach had plenty of positive things to say about the Fords and said it was a good loss that will help her teams’ strength of schedule down the road.

“The seniors who graduated last year set a great foundation for us,” 5 foot, 3 inch Haverford junior guard Jacqueline Pizzuto said. “In the past Haverford was looked at as one of the bottom teams in the conference. We’ve been progressing and now we’re one of the top teams and it’s very exciting. We’ve been working hard the past couple of years. Receiving votes in the top 25 was exciting and it has never happened before. It’s nice to know that we’re being recognized as a good team.”

Pizzuto is also one of the best guards in the Centennial Conference. A Jersey native, She helped Rutgers Prep to a state title and her winning ways have rubbed off on her teammates. She is definitely Jersey tough. It’s funny because when Pizzuto was younger, she would have never imagined herself as a point guard.

Not that many people would know it when watching Pizzuto run the offense, offer encouragement and deliver stern messages to her teammates, but Pizzuto used to be shy.

Her parents wanted her to play sports as a way to help her come out of her shell. The psychology major is one of Haverford’s captains and enjoys being the leader of the Fords.

“I just love being a point guard, in control and a leader out there,” PIzzuto said. “It was very exciting when I was named one of the captains. I was ready to lead this team. We have a lot of seniors this year. We’ve made some great runs in the playoffs, but we haven’t gotten over the hump of getting to the conference championship. We’re ready to do that this year and I am ready to help us do that.”

The Fords have lost in the conference semifinals in each of the last two years to Johns Hopkins. This season they want to change that and Pizzuto’s tenacity, creativity and leadership will be key.

She’s had a solid career for Haverford and she is still creating more memories. Pizzuto started the season by hitting a game-winning basket against TCNJ to help Haverford win the Marymount Tip-Off tournament.

As a sophomore, Pizzuto was named to All-Centennial Conference team as an honorable mention player and to the Centennial academic honor roll.

She started all 25 games for Haverford, not only averaging the most playing time on the team (35.7 minutes per game), but also accumulating the most in school history in a single season (893). Pizzuto was third in the conference with 90 assists.

She also had the most efficient assist/turnover ratio in the conference.

Lastly, Pizzuto shot a team-best 87.2 percent from the free-throw line setting a new school record in the process.

This season, Pizzuto is averaging 9.6 points per game, which is third on the team behind senior Nina Voith (15.1 points per game) and Elizabeth Lynch (13.3). Pizzuto is third in the CC in assists per game (3.5). Voith is fourth in the conference in scoring and Lynch is seventh. The Fords success has truly been a team effort. Rachel Baskin has 28 assists, which is tied with Pizzuto for the team lead. Shannon Smith chips in 5.7 points per game.

Against Johns Hopkins, the Fords got 11 points each from Smith, Voith and Pizzuto. Haverford also sprinted to a 15-5 lead in the opening 12 minutes before Hopkins started to take control. The Fords lost the first 20 times they played Hopkins.

Since Morgan has been at the helm, Haverford is 4-7 against the Blue Jays. The teams will meet in Delaware County on Feb. 1.

The Fords will try to start another winning streak when they make another trip to Maryland to visit McDaniel College Saturday afternoon.

“We are a good team and we just need to learn from our mistakes,” Pizzuto said. “We’re a little bummed that we lost, but there’s so much to learn. These are fixable things for us. We need to come together and do the little things that’s gong to get us wins.”

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


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