EASTON, Pa. –
In her second season as the head coach of the Lafayette women's basketball program, Kia Damon-Olson
is looking forward to what this season brings as the Leopards hit the floor on Friday night against Fairleigh Dickinson in Hackensack, New Jersey.
"I'm really excited for the season," Damon-Olson said. "Each individual player really worked in the offseason to grow and expand their game and with the combination of that growth and experience, I think we are really poised to have a strong season."
Lafayette returns nine letterwinners from last season's squad, including a pair of Patriot League All-Rookie team selections in sophomores Natalie Kucowski
and Drew Freeland
. Classmate Olivia Martino
and junior Alexis Santarelli
also played major roles in 2017-18 and will be relied upon to do so this time around.
"If you look at last year, we made significant progress from the beginning of the season to the end and I fully expect to start at a higher note and end at a higher note than we did last season," Damon-Olson said.
Damon-Olson returns her entire coaching staff from last season and brings aboard six newcomers made up of five freshmen and junior Sydney Sabino
who was forced to sit out all of last season due to transfer rules.
The Maroon and White will open the season on Friday night at FDU before welcoming Binghamton to Kirby Sports Center
for the home opener on Sunday at 2 p.m.
Below is a full breakdown of the 2018-19 edition of Lafayette women's basketball.
The Leopards will look to replace last season's leading 3-point shooter and leader in assists in Anna Ptasinski
and Sammy Stipa
, respectively, with a strong mix of returners and newcomers in 2018-19.
Joining Freeland and Martino as impact players in the backcourt is freshman Nicole Johnson
. Just as the freshmen did last season, Johnson and her classmates expect to have large roles this season and she has solidified herself as a viable option at the point guard position for the Leopards.
"We are really trying to establish who is comfortable with what we are doing so they can direct other people," Damon-Olson said. "We have a lot of quality ball handlers and decision makers who can serve that role."
Junior Sarah Agnello
returns after scoring 24 points on 6-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc in the Leopards' Patriot League Tournament win last season against Boston U. and Sabino is another player who is expected to light it up from deep.
"Since we have such a strong interior game, we will always have people we can put on the floor who can shoot it at a pretty high level," Damon-Olson added. "Sydney is an incredible shooter and it's not if she will make it, it's how many will she make if she has the opportunity."
Also expected to see time at guard are seniors Alex Cantwell
and Nia Holland
, and freshmen Jiselle Havas
, Becca Margolis
and Makaila Wilson
. Wilson stands at 6-foot and is someone who fits into Damon-Olson's "positionless basketball" system.
"The great thing about our roster is the versatility," Damon-Olson said. "We have a lot of players who are capable ball handlers and decision makers, so we are comfortable with the ball in a lot of different peoples' hands."
What might be the strength of this year's Leopards is the forward position with the return of Kucowski, Santarelli and junior Tasha Vipond
. The group will have to replace a starter in Ellen Graham
from last year's squad, but does so with a mixture of experience and length.
Along with being named to the Patriot League All-Rookie Team last season, Kucowski set the Lafayette record for rebounds in a single season with 309, was one of just two Patriot League players to average a double-double with 10.9 ppg and 10.3 rpg, and led the team in minutes per game at 28.7 a contest.
Santarelli returns having made 11 starts in 2017-18 and averaged 8.0 ppg and 4.1 rpg. She had a career-high 21 points at American and shot it at 81 percent from the charity stripe.
Vipond appeared in every game last season and was a key player off the bench for the Leopards. The newcomer to Lafayette's frontcourt is freshman Naomi Ganpo
. The freshman is 6-3 from Ontario, Canada and will have an opportunity to play valuable minutes in 2018-19.
Damon-Olson returns her entire coaching staff from her first season with the Leopards. Assistant coach Tom Lochner
and her first hire has over 30 years of coaching experience and has a large role in creating game plans and scouting.
Assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Natalie Jarrett
works with the team's post players and Jennifer Montoya
deals with the point guards. Each member brings a high energy level and enthusiasm each and every day to help create a challenging atmosphere.
The Leopards open the season going back-and-forth between home and road games with the season opener at FDU on Friday before coming home to Kirby Sports Center
on Sunday. Lafayette will then travel to Wagner on Nov. 17 and faceoff with Saint Peter's at home on Nov. 20.
The nonconference schedule is highlighted by a trip to paradise as the Leopards will take part in the FAU Thanksgiving Tournament, meeting up with the host institution on Nov. 23 and take on either Bradely or Delaware on Nov. 24 in tournament play.
The Patriot League slate opens with Lehigh on Jan. 3 at Kirby Sports Center
, followed by Holy Cross at home on Jan. 6. A double header with the Lafayette men's team will take place on Jan. 30 as the women take center stage at 6 p.m. against Boston U. while the men will follow at 8:30 p.m. against Lehigh.
The annual Play 4 Kay game is scheduled for Feb. 16 against Loyola and defending Patriot League champion American comes to College Hill on Feb. 23. The regular season will wrap up at home on March 6 against Colgate.
The Patriot League Tournament tips off on March 9 with first round contests with the quarterfinals scheduled for March 11 followed by the semifinals on March 15. The championship game will be played on March 17 and televised on the CBS Sports Network. Each game in the tournament will be played at the higher seed's home venue.
For the latest on the Lafayette College women's basketball program, follow the Leopards on Twitter @LafayetteWBB
, Facebook at Lafayette Women's Basketball
, and Instagram @LafayetteWBB