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, November 10, 2017

Bob Heller’s Philly WBB Small College Report: D2 Schools Ready for Openers

(Guru’s Note: After covering many of them in the Philly Summer League as team Red, etc., Bob Heller has agreed to come aboard with a season-long notebook to keep tabs of them in their own names in NCAA Divisions II and III.) 

 By Bob Heller

The 2017-18 basketball season kicks off this weekend for area Division II women’s basketball teams and next Wednesday for Division III programs as teams such as Division II University of the Sciences and Division III Gwynedd Mercy University looking to defend their conference titles. 

 The 25-plus Division II and Division III programs have been gearing up since October and are ready to compete for their respective conference championships.

University of the Sciences, under fifth year head coach Jackie Hartzell, was the winningest non-Division I program in the area last season, recording a school record 27 wins against six losses while winning their first ever NCAA Tournament game. 

 The Devils received 13 of 14 first place votes in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC) pre-season poll and also return 13 of 14 players  from last year’s squad including All-CACC performers  senior Sarah Abbonizio and junior Alex Thomas.  

Hartzell also brought in a solid recruiting class, giving the team additional depth.  Entering the season the Devils are ranked nationally in two polls, #23 in the WBCA Coaches poll and #16 in the D2SIDA Media poll. USciences opens their season at home on Friday against Southern New Hampshire as part of a CACC-NE10 Conference Challenge.

Jefferson University (formerly Philadelphia University) earned the other first place vote for the division and was picked to finish second in the CACC South.  The Rams were 14-15 last year and return ten players from last year’s team. 

 Jefferson kicks off their season against defending East Region Champion Queens College at the Gallagher Center on Saturday as part of the Jefferson Conference Challenge.

The Griffins of Chestnut Hill College were picked third in the CACC South while the Tigers of Holy Family University were selected fifth.  Chestnut Hill is coming off one of their best season’s ever with a 16-11 record last year while Holy Family is looking to recover from their first sub-.500 season since joining the CACC.

Moving north of the city, Gwynedd Mercy University seeks to earn its second consecutive Colonial State Athletic Conference title in what should be an extremely well balanced league.  The Griffins were picked to win the conference receiving four first place votes and 131 points, five points ahead of Marywood who also garnered four first place votes. The Griffins finished 18-11 last year and defeated Cabrini University in the CSAC title game.

Cabrini was picked third in the CSAC poll and received two first place votes. The Cavaliers will have a deep squad, losing just one senior from last year’s conference runner-up team that went 15-12 on the season.  Neumann University garnered the final two-first place votes in the CSAC and was picked fourth coming off an 18-8 effort in 2016-17.   Immaculata University was fifth in the poll.   Two other area schools, Rosemont College and Cairn University also hope to be competitive in the league this year.  CSAC schools will begin their season on November 15.

The 2017-18 season will also be the last season for the CSAC before undergoing several membership changes as five core schools (Gwynedd Mercy, Marywood, Cabrini, Neumann and Immaculata) will be leaving the conference to create the core of a new-yet-to-be-named Division III league.

Moving back to the Division II ranks, West Chester University in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) was picked to finish second in the PSAC East behind East Stroudsburg University.  The Golden Rams have eight returning players from last year’s 10-17 squad returning including all-league performers Porscha Speller and Madison Torresin. 

 Transfer Mia Hopkins will also see her first action in a Golden Ram uniform after sitting last season following her transfer from Bloomsburg. East Stroudsburg, the top pick in the PSAC East is coached by former Villanova great Diane Decker.

Another PSAC East school, Cheyney University will sport nine newcomers on this year’s squad as they look to improve upon last year’s 6-17 mark.  The Wolves big rivalry game will be on November 30 when they travel to play Lincoln University in the “Battle of the First” at LU’s Manuel Rivero Hall.

Lincoln started peaking at the right time last season, making a deep run in the CIAA Tournament before bowing out to runner-up Virginia State in the semi-finals.  The Lions have eight seniors on this year’s team led by leading scorer and rebounder Teira Pendleton.  They also have a tough early schedule, playing five games on the road including three PSAC West schools along with Jefferson from the CACC and an exhibition contest against Division I Morgan State before their home opener against Wilmington on November28. T

he “Battle of the First” against Cheyney follows two days later in what should be a sold-out contest at Manuel Rivero Hall.

Four area schools are part of the Division III Centennial Conference.  Haverford College went 19-7 last season and was picked to finish second in the league, receiving 8 first place votes. Defending champion Muhlenberg was picked first with nine first place votes. Coach Bobbi Morgan’s squad returns all five starters including all-CC players Sierra Berkel, Samantha Wetzel and Macy Goldbach from last year’s team which reached the conference semi-finals.

Ursinus College was picked sixth in the league in the voting done by conference coaches and SID’s.  The Bears return nine players (four starters) from last year’s 13-12 team including All-CC second team performer Lydia Konstanzer who led the squad in scoring and rebounding.  Seven freshmen will join the mix to give the Bears additional depth.

Swarthmore College and Bryn Mawr College are the remaining two area Centennial schools that hope to improve upon last year’s records and be competitive in the league.  The four area Centennial schools will begin play on November 15.

The Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC) sports four area schools between the MAC Freedom and the MAC Commonwealth Conference with the best of those four being Eastern University.  Eastern was picked third in the MAC Freedom Conference after finishing with a 17-9 record last season and reaching the conference semi-finals.

Delaware Valley University was picked fifth in the MAC Freedom and looks to improve upon last year’s 9-16 record. The team will sport a mix of upper classmen and freshmen as they look to get back to the post-season.

In the MAC Commonwealth Conference two teams that struggled last season, Widener University and Arcadia University were picked fifth and seventh respectively in the league.  Both squads finished under .500 last season and are looking to improve.

Penn State Abington and Bryn Athyn College are part of the North Eastern Athletic Conference.  For the Nittany Lions, six players return from last year’s 12-14 squad including last year’s leading scorer and rebounder Shayna Rodriguez.  Rodriguez averaged 18.5 points and 9.3 rebounds for the Nittany Lions last season.

The Lions of Bryn Athyn College went 20-6 last season and return several players from last year’s squad.  Gone however is leading scorer/rebounder Kristina Clark.  Clark averaged 20.3 points and 14.4 rebounds per game and was a key to the Lions success last season.  The Lions will have a blend of returnees and newcomers as they look to advance deeper into the NEAC tournament after falling the first round last season.