The Felician College women's basketball team returns a veteran group for the 2013-14 campaign, including five seniors on an 11-player roster. While every team member has collegiate experience, the group is trying to rebound from an 8-18 overall record and its failure to qualify for last year's Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference playoffs.
So with a similar cast of characters, what gives coach Steve Fagan hope that this season's results will be different?
"It comes down to maturity," said Fagan, entering his sixth season. "It's a matter of becoming wiser and learning from past failures. After the expectations going into last season, I think we came out of it with some humility. Our seniors understand where we've been and the level we are trying to get back to, and they have a lot of pride – they don't want to see the program move backward on their watch."
Like most coaches, Fagan stresses a game-to-game mentality. He has not saddled his players with unreasonable expectations, but has a strong idea of what success will look like.
"Our goal is just to get better each game," he said. "Our fans can expect to see us running on offense, with the ball constantly moving. We need our ball-handlers getting into the paint, whether it's to score or for a kick-out. On the defensive end, we need five players constantly working together.
"We play a challenging non-conference schedule against teams from three different conferences. We'll get an idea very early of how we stand regionally, and where we need to grow from."
GUARDS: The Golden Falcons feature a capable pair of combination guards in senior tri-captain Gisell Peguero (Brooklyn, N.Y./Midwood) and junior Eliana Scanlon (New York, N.Y./Oak Hill Academy [Va.]). Peguero is a four-year veteran and strong leader, while Scanlon looks to be the main distributor.
Felician expects an offensive spark from the perimeter skills of senior Jac'Quel Saunders (Trenton, N.J./Trenton Catholic Academy) and junior Alex Salaycik (Staten Island, N.Y./Moore Catholic). Junior walk-on Sharnese Scott (Bowie, Md./Seton Catholic) is a capable on-ball defender and has shown an improved ability to run the offense.
WINGS: Two-time All-CACC selection Trina Plummer (West Babylon, N.Y./North Babylon) continues to add elements to her game as she approaches the 1,000-point plateau for her career. The coaching staff expects her to command double-teams and is hopeful that her assist total will rise as a result. Sophomore Sierra McDuffie (Paterson, N.J./PCTI) received significant experience as a rookie and will once again play key minutes at both forward spots.
POSTS: The most interesting pre-season competition has come at the power forward position, where 2012-13 starter Ashley Morris (West Orange, N.J./West Orange) will share time with senior tri-captain Que Lyles (Bronx, N.Y./Banana Kelly), who sat out last season after setting the single-season school record for blocked shots as a junior.
Senior center Keisha Jean-Louis (Somerville, Mass./Somerville) returns after starting last season, and coach Fagan expects the backcourt to provide her with several touches in the paint. Junior Mary Chisholm (West Babylon, N.Y./North Babylon) can spell the starters on the low block.