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.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Rob Knox's D-3 Report: Ex-Philadelphia U Star Creates March Magic Coaching PSU-Abington

By Rob Knox @knoxrob1

Penn State-Abington head coach Stephanie Carideo is a winner.

In addition to winning everywhere she’s been, Carideo has also left an indelible mark.

A 1,000-point scorer at Lower Cape May High School in southern New Jersey and at Philadelphia University, Carideo is now making a name for herself in the coaching ranks.

Her latest masterpiece is turning around the Penn State-Abington women’s basketball program in her second year in charge of the Nittany Lions.

PSU-Abington is enjoying a historic season under Carideo’s leadership.

The Nittany Lions have won a school record 22 games, captured their first North East Athletic Conference (NEAC) championship and earned an unfathomable postseason trip to powerhouse George Fox University in Newburg, Oregon, which is 25 miles south of Portland.

It will be the NCAA Division III Tournament debut for Penn State-Abington, who flew into Portland Wednesday afternoon. Anybody with the slightest knowledge of the NCAA knows it’s stingy with flying Division III teams to postseason locations.

The Nittany Lions will tip-off Friday night at 10 p.m. Eastern Time against the heavily favored Bruins, who are hosting a weekend pod.

Should PSU-Abington win, it would meet the winner of the Claremont-Mudd Scripps (Calif.)-Puget Sound (Wa.) game Saturday night for the a spot in the Sweet 16.

“I knew it was going to be a challenge, but I also had the energy for the position,” Carideo said earlier this week. “I have a winning tradition in my bloodstream and I wanted to bring that here to a program that wasn’t used to winning. I started coaching in high school and I knew I wanted to coach college basketball.”

Penn State-Abington is one of three teams in the womhoopsguru coverage area competing in the Division III tournament this weekend.

Eastern will meet perennial power and 2011 national champion Amherst at New York University. Cabrini battles Muhlenberg in a game being played at Geneso State. With the amount of Trenton athletes on its roster FDU-Florham is hosting a weekend pod and will play Johnson & Wales. All first round games are on Friday night.

However, Penn State-Abington’s participation in the NCAA Division III tournament is special. In the four years prior to this season, the Nittany Lions, a program in their third year as a Division III member, won a total of 21 games.

No matter what happens Friday night, Carideo’s influence and winning ways has rubbed off on PSU-Abington as she has changed the culture of the program that wasn’t used to experiencing success.

Winning runs in the Carideo household.

Her husband Chris is the head men's basketball coach at Widener and a Philadelphia Small College Basketball Hall of Famer. He was the only Widener coach in any sport to lead his program to the NCAA Tournament in his first three years.

Carideo has been able to lay a solid base at PSU-Abington because she had a strong foundation at Philadelphia University.

Playing four years under legendary Philadelphia University head coach Tom Shirley, Carideo, who was also recently inducted into the Lower Cape May Athletic Hall of Fame, helped the Rams experience a few firsts during her career.

She helped them win 75 games and was an instrumental part of the 2008-09 team that won the school's first Central Athletic Collegiate Conference (CACC) championship.

That squad also made its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2001.

A two-time CACC all-conference selection, Carideo concluded her career as a Ram with 1,078 points and 405 rebounds. She also departed the school ranked seventh all-time in assists (339) and fourth all-time in steals (226).

“Coach (Tom) Shirley is one of the toughest guys I played for,” Carideo said. “He had a zero tolerance policy and I knew that was something I was going to have to do when I started here. I learned a lot from him especially from an X-and-O standpoint. But I also have a lot of other things in my wheelhouse as well that I picked up along the way.”

She also picked up former Holy Family star Carolyne Heston from a tradition of triumphs for her staff to help her.

Of course to turn a program around, a coach needs players, something that was in short supply when she took over the team. Player participation was so low at one point that PSU-Abington had to recruit softball athletes to fill out a starting five, let alone an entire roster.

“We had to bring in players,” Carideo said. “We hit the recruiting trail hard and had to find the right fit for Abington. There wasn’t much success prior to my arrival, which made it tough to sell. I found the right kids and got very lucky.”

One of the student-athletes who was here when Carideo arrived was senior Jessica Schmidt, one of three Abington High graduates on the roster. Schmidt remembered the hard times and was excited to embrace change.

“Every game was a struggle and they were used to losing,” Schmidt said of her first year as a member of the PSU-Abington program. “I couldn’t wrap my head around it. Last year wasn’t the best year. We had softball players on our team and at one point we had six girls on our team. I thought our program was going to fold.”

Even though the Nittany Lions won five games in Carideo’s first year, progress was evident as players on the team had a basketball foundation and they brought into her system.

“We brought into her system,” Schmidt said. “I know that we worked our butts off this year. We didn’t take any days off and we knew we were getting better as a program.

"Having a coach who believes in you, can take you far and give you that extra edge. As a team, we’ve built a tight bond. She built a friendship and bond with me. Coach was serious about changing PSU-Abington basketball. At the start of the season, we didn’t think this would be possible and now it is.”

PSU-Abington knows it’s facing a formidable opponent and one that many pundits believe can advance to the Final Four in Grand Rapids (Michigan) in its NCAA opener.

However, with it being March, upsets can happen like 16th-seeded Harvard beating top-seeded Stanford in 1997, and 12th seeded Ball State beating Tennessee in 2009.

George Fox finished the regular season as Northwest Conference Champions, and went on to win the NWC Tournament Championship, receiving the automatic bid into the tournament.

The Bruins are currently ranked No. 3 in the D3hoops.com Top 25 poll. The Bruins will be making their 11th NCAA Tournament appearance in the 15 seasons of NCAA eligibility.

Schmidt is one of three players averaging double figures for the Nittany Lions. She was also one of three players named to the All-NEAC postseason team.

Senior guard Stephanie Keyes (Archbishop Wood) was named first team All-NEAC. She was fifth in the NEAC in points, averaging 17.6 points per game.

Keyes also finished second in the conference from three with 40.0 shooting percentage. She has been known to light up the scoreboard and has scored 20 or more points 10 times this season, including a season-high 32 points against Keuka College.

Schmidt and junior guard Janaiah Elum (Northeast High) earned Third Team All NEAC honors.

Schmidt leaves Penn State Abington, with numerous single season records and is third all-time in scoring, with over 1,000 points. Schmidt is the Nittany Lions’ leading rebounder at 7.6 points per game. She also averages 10.8 points per outing.

Elum finished the season 11th overall in points per game, averaging 16.0 and fourth overall in three-point percentage, shooting 38.2% behind the arc.

Keyes, Elum and Kyra Lunsford (Vineland) have accounted for 84 percent of the Nittany Lions’ 219 3-point field goals this season and Keyes is fourth nationally in 3-pointers made per game (3.19).

PSU-Abington has made double-digit three-pointers in a game nine times this season, including 13 in the NEAC title game against Morrisville State.

Other key contributors for the Nittany Lions this season have been Breanna Lineman (Girls High) and Elizabeth Jones (St. Hubert).

“Any team can beat anybody at this time of the year,” Carideo said. “Our mindset is going to be the biggest part. It’s cool that we’re flying and in the NCAA Tournament, but we’re not here to say we flew on a plane.

"We’re excited about the opportunity we have and we’re going to go in there and fight. It’s been a special journey this year for us. We’re going to go out there and make the East Coast proud.”

Division II crossovers:

USciences-Holy Family Set for Round Three

The University of the Sciences and Holy Family will meet for the third time this season Friday afternoon at 12:00 p.m. Philadelphia will host Caldwell at 2:00 p.m. Both games will be played at Philadelphia University’s Gallagher Center. The two winners will play Saturday for the championship.

Brianne Traub led all players with her tenth double-double of the season, scoring 27 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in an 86-49 quarterfinal win over Post. Jessica Sylvester added 15 points. Isabella Ross grabbed eight rebounds and chipped in six points and Sarah Abbonizio came off the bench to score nine points.

Holy Family will be making its 11th trip in the last 12 years to the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference semifinals after defeating the reigning conference champion Bloomfield College, 60-46, in the quarterfinals.

Junior Erin Fenningham led a trio of Tigers that scored in double-figures with a game-high 13 points. Sophomore Jill Conroy totaled 12 points and recorded a game-high six assists to go along with two steals on defense. Junior Kasey Woetzel finished with 10 points and eight rebounds.

Najah Jacobs scored 21 of her 29 points in the second half to lead Philadelphia to an 82-63 quarterfinal victory over Dominican. Mary Newell scored 15 points of her 17-points in the opening half. She also had eight rebounds. Guard Bria Young added 13 points.

In the latest Division II Regional Rankings, Philadelphia and USciences were seventh and eighth, respectively in the East Region.

The Lincoln University falls in CIAA championship game

The Lincoln University also made a little history last week by advancing to its first Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) title game since its return to Division II. The Lady Lions dropped a 73-49 decision to Virginia State in the title game. Senior Zephrah Pam and junior Amani Clark were named to the all-tournament team. Lincoln also set a program record with 21 victories.

The Lady Lions will wait to see if they are selected to the ECAC Division II postseason tournament. Selections and pairings will be announced Monday. They weren’t ranked in the final public Atlantic Regional rankings.

West Chester headed to PSAC semifinals

Serifat Junaid posted 15 points and grabbed 13 rebounds while Dallas Ely added 19 points and 10 rebounds to lead West Chester to a 77-70 victory over visiting Shippensburg in a PSAC Tournament quarterfinal Tuesday evening.

West Chester (23-4) advances to the PSAC semifinals for the second straight year and fifth time in the last seven. Head coach Kiera Wooden picked up her first postseason win of her career.

Her squad will travel to Bloomsburg this weekend to play Indiana, Pa., in the semifinals on Saturday at 1:00 p.m.

Bloomsburg, with Villanova graduate Bill Cleary as head coach, meets California at 3:00 p.m.

Bloomsburg and West Chester are ranked third and sixth, respectively in the recent NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional rankings.

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

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