The Felician College women's basketball team enjoyed unprecedented success in 2011-12. In addition to posting their third consecutive winning season – a program first – the Golden Falcons set school records for winning streak and conference wins en route to their first Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference North Division regular-season title.
This year's Felician team, however, is without three key components from that squad. Lost to graduation are 1,000-point scorer Destiny Barnette and all-time rebounding leader Jessica Ford, while Que Lyles, a key defensive stopper, is taking a redshirt season. So fifth-year head coach Steve Fagan has been quick to remind his squad that nothing is guaranteed.
"With the people we lost, we'll have to learn quickly that we're a totally different team," said Fagan, who earned the 2012 CACC Coach of the Year award. "All the teams in our division have quality players coming back, and nothing will be given to us. We have to earn, all over again, the right to be considered among the best teams in our league."
One factor that will not change is Felician's commitment to aggressive defense. The Golden Falcons ranked third nationally among Division II teams a year ago in field-goal percentage defense, and Fagan continues to stress a defense-first philosophy.
"We talk every day about playing hard on the defensive end," he said. "I believe that whoever can defend the best while playing hard and together every night will have the most success in our division. Ideally, our defense will create transition baskets, and on offense the penetration of our perimeter players will lead to open shots."
GUARDS: Junior Gisell Pegeuro (Brooklyn, N.Y./Midwood), who started all 27 games last year at point guard, has been named a team captain and will once again be the floor leader. Sophomore Eliana Scanlon (New York, N.Y./Oak Hill Academy [Va.]), a transfer from Division-I Gardner Webb University, has emerged as the leading off-guard candidate.
"With two years under her belt, Gisell is ready to flourish as our 1-guard," Fagan said. "Eliana is a capable jump shooter who is not afraid to attack the basket."
Shakeema Green (New York, N.Y./Murry Bergtraum), the team's only senior, offers additional scoring punch, and sophomore Sharnese Scott (Bowie, Md./Elizabeth Seton) brings defensive energy and the ability to disrupt opposing backcourts.
WINGS: Junior Jac'Quel Saunders (Trenton, N.J./Trenton Catholic Academy) is a returning starter with the ability to score in multiple ways. True freshman Sierra McDuffie (Paterson, N.J./PCTI) can provide a spark at both ends of the floor, and sophomore Alex Salaycik (Staten Island, N.Y./Moore Catholic) continues to develop into a legitimate long-range shooting threat.
POSTS: After an honorable-mention all-CACC nod a year ago, junior power forward Trina Plummer (West Babylon, N.Y./North Babylon) looks to expand her role and become the Golden Falcons' go-to player. Junior-college transfer Keisha Jean-Louis (Somerville, Mass./Somerville) is an experienced center who adds a strong low-post presence and projects for a starting role.
The Golden Falcons expect a big lift from the inside-out game of redshirt sophomore Ashley Morris (West Orange, N.J./West Orange), who has come back strong this preseason after missing 2011-12 due to injury. Sophomore center Mary Chisholm (West Babylon, N.Y./North Babylon) has a knack for scoring around the basket.