MORRISVILLE, N.Y. – The 2017-18 season may be an adjustment for the Morrisville State College Mustangs women's basketball team with eight newcomers to the roster, but as head coach Erin Skaradek (39-16, 27-9 NEAC) enters her third season at the helm of the program, the coaching staff believes the additional depth, scoring ability and talent will lead them back to the North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) tournament for a fourth straight season.
Morrisville State returns a strong five to the roster, including three to the starting lineup that is set to tip-off Wednesday for the 2017 opener at Keystone.
Senior guard Haley Kilmartin (Fort Plain, N.Y.) will be looked to, to lead the charge for Morrisville State who a year ago posted a 20-8 overall record, reaching the NEAC Championship final.
Kilmartin started in all 28 games for the Mustangs a year ago, averaging a team high 13.6 points per game to go along with her 5.7 rebounds and 32 minutes per game average. The senior drained 51 from beyond the arc, and contributed an additional .778 shooting percentage from the free throw line as she racked up 382 total points and All-Conference third team accolades.
Marissa Woodard (Unadilla, N.Y.) will return for a commanding presence at center both offensively and defensively. The senior stands 6'3" and last season assisted the Mustangs on the glass with her 6.3 point, 4.9 rebound average, while putting up a wall for 32 blocked shots on the season.
Kilmartin and Woodard will captain the Mustangs this season, and according to Skaradek, have already established the leadership foundation for the year.
"Haley and Marissa have done a great job thus far leading a large group of newcomers," Skaradek said. "They have set the bar high and hold their teammates accountable on and off the court."
"All of our returners have already provided great leadership in our first three weeks of practice," she continued.
Skaradek noted that returners Charlotte Walker (Middle Island, N.Y.) and Tori Rockefeller (Bloomville, N.Y.) have also contributed to the leadership of the returning class, both becoming more vocal on and off the court.
Walker, junior guard/forward, appeared in 28 games for Morrisville State last season, starting 27, and contributed to the offensive attack that averaged 68.8 points per outing, and 39.2 rebounds per game. Walker shot .500 from the floor enroute to 12.8 points per game average, while contributing on the glass for 6.5 boards on average each night.
Rockefeller was not far behind, collecting 272 points (9.7 point per game average), while registering 50 steals across 28 games as she made her collegiate debut last season.
"We will rely on our returning players to play with experience and provide quite a bit of scoring," Skaradek commented. "We have brought in a good sized freshmen class, many of which will compete right away and provide our team with a great amount of depth this year."
"We have several capable scorers' at all different positions, and that gives us a lot of options moving forward."
The Mustangs will have big shoes to fill at the point guard position, though, after losing four-year starter and captain Jordan Anderson to graduation last May, but Skaradek is confident that her incoming class will fill that void and contribute immediately to the team's success.
She pointed to freshman Alexis Campbell (Buffalo, N.Y.) who not only has solid playing experience as a point guard, but is a threat from the perimeter, can get to the rim quickly, and simply, according to Skaradek 'will not be easy to guard'.
"Lex will be a great addition for us at the point guard position," Skaradek said. "She's quick and smart with the ball in her hands, and sees the floor very well."
Skaradek also commented on the addition of transfer Shantell McCall (Elmont, N.Y.) who, prior to Morrisville State, played two seasons at the NJCAA Division II level with Dean College. While a part of the team, McCall was a two-time All-Conference selection, and the team was back-to-back Regional Champions.
"Shantell will provide us with some collegiate experience," Skaradek stated. "She does a great job getting to the rim, and has a knack for the ball on the glass. She finds a way to be involved in every play."
Outside of Campbell and McCall, the Mustangs are also expecting an immediate contribution from newcomers Abby Halsey (Palmyra, N.Y.), Miranda Wright (Smyrna, N.Y.) and A-laya Callicutt-Wright (Henrietta, N.Y.).
"Abby has a good basketball IQ and is a threat from the perimeter. Both Miranda and A-laya are strong on the defensive end of the floor, have a great work ethic and can read the ball well," she said.
"I think that as soon as our newcomers start to become more comfortable and start discovering their roles, there will be some potential for several surprises."
"We should be able to play very fast this season, and have several guards and post players that like to get out and run in transition, pushing the pace. Defensively, our plan is to play more diverse than we have in past seasons, pressure more, focus on the glass and giving teams only one possession."
Morrisville State will get their first test of the season Wednesday as they hit the road for the 2017-18 opener at Keystone, a 6 p.m. cancer benefit tip-off.
They return to the court Saturday and Sunday at the Stockton Tip-Off Tournament, facing the hosts in the opening round at 5 p.m. on the 18th before learning their opponent and fate for Sunday's game.
Two additional road games, the first at Geneseo on the 21st, followed by the NEAC opener at SUNY Cobleskill on the 29th, lead the Mustangs into December where they host Hamilton on their home court on the 1st.
Morrisville State will head to Williamsport on the 3rd for a NEAC tip against Penn College at 3 p.m. before returning for two home battles on their own court, beginning with SUNY Canton on the 6th in a non-league matchup.
The Mustangs will play host to Wells College on the 9th, their final NEAC battle of the first semester, before traveling down the road to Utica College on the 16th to wrap up the 2017 action.
Schedule action resumes on January 10th as Morrisville State takes to the road for three straight NEAC contests, the first at Keuka, before meeting Penn St. Berks on the 13th and St. Elizabeth on the 14th.
Cobleskill rolls into town on the 17th for a 7 p.m. match up on the Mustangs home court, kicking off a three game home stretch. Penn College will make their visit to Morrisville on the 20th, followed by Keuka on the 23rd.
The Mustangs will visit crosstown rival SUNY Poly on the 27th before returning to their home court for five straight contests.
Delhi will visit on the 28th followed by a Route 20 Rivalry war with Cazenovia on the 31st. Gallaudet and Penn St. Abington come to town February 3rd and 4th, before Poly makes the trip to Morrisville on the 7th for the Mustangs home finale.
Morrisville State will head to Wells on the 10th, Cazenovia on the 13th before wrapping up regular season action on the 15th at Buffalo State College.
"While our goal will always be to obtain a championship, we will need to be focused this season," Skaradek said.
"We talk every day about not focusing and dwelling on our mistakes, but how to learn and combat them to be successful. We may take some bumps early on, but continuous work ethic and improvement will get us to where we want to be."
Morrisville State College's curricula are enriched with applied learning and pave the way for opportunity at both the Morrisville and Norwich campuses. An action-oriented, interactive learning lab, the college is a national leader in technology and has been lauded for its exemplary, innovative and effective community service programs.
The college was ranked among the Best Regional Colleges in the North by U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges 2018 issue and was also recognized in the Top Public Schools, Regional Colleges North in the 2018 Best Colleges rankings. For more information about Morrisville State College, visit www.morrisville.edu.