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Home opener Tuesday; 2016-2017 women's basketball preview
Sunday, August 14, 2016

Home opener Tuesday; 2016-2017 women's basketball preview

Last season the women's basketball team had its most successful season ever, which included the team playing host to it's first-ever SUNYAC Tournament game, a thrilling 89-81 overtime victory over Brockport.

The team finished 19-8 overall and returns most of its roster in tact. However, it is missing one significant piece – Sabrina Macaulay. Macaulay finished her career with over 1,000 points and 750 rebounds. A very experienced senior class, four juniors and a trio of outstanding sophomores could put the Devils right back in the mix this season.

Head Coach Linda Hill-MacDonald is entering her fourth year with the program and will use her team's depth to her advantage.

The senior class consists of Jamie Curry (Ransomville/Wilson), Alexis Cheatham (Lockport/Lockport), Kathryn Halloran (Angola/Immaculata), and Khee Nance (Dunkirk/Dunkirk).

Curry was the only Blue Devil to start all 27 games last season. The versatile Curry has shown she can play away from the ball and shoot from long range (20 three pointers last season), and can handle and distribute it as well. She averaged 4.0 points and 2.0 assists per game last year. "I like what I've been seeing, she's been much more consistent shooting the ball," said Hill-MacDonald.

Cheatham, a four-year starter, will run the point. She is the school's all-time leader in three-point field goals made with 169. Last season Cheatham averaged 12.6 points per game and dished out 3.4 assists. She was Second Team All-SUNYAC.

Halloran, who started 24 games as a junior, is a post threat for the Blue Devils. Halloran averaged 3.5 and snatched 3.9 boards per contest.

Nance, a guard, looks to make a larger contribution this season. One of the most athletic players on the team – she's one of the top players on the Fredonia softball team – she will be a key to the team's depth. Last year she average 4.7 points and 2.9 assists after concentrating on softball her first two seasons.

The junior class features two returnees and a pair of transfers. Jacque Law (Machias/Pioneer) and Emily Lasher (Wilson/Wilson) return, while Alisha Szumigala (Forestville/Forestville) and Emma Weyand (Gowanda/Gowanda) bring in college experience.

Law averaged 9.1 points per game and pulled in 3.4 rebounds. She is not afraid to drive to the bucket and also accounted for 17 threes last season. Lasher appeared in just six games the previous year.

Szuimigala is an athletic junior transfer from Jamestown Community College who will play down low. Hill-MacDonald hopes to utilize her new addition. "Alicia is really smart and athletic." said Hill-MacDonald. "She also can run the floor. She's steady and coachable. There are a lot of positives there."

Weyand transfers in from North Country Community College. Hill-MacDonald likes her energy and work ethic.

The Blue Devils have a talented sophomore group in Justice Nauden (Waterport/Charles D'Amico), Sarah Sweazy (Rochester, N.Y./Rush-Henrietta), and Jenna Einink (Westfield/Chautauqua Lake).

Nauden, a 5'5'' guard, is the most improved player according to Hill-MacDonald. She did not get a lot of time last year, but could play a major role in the team's success.

The 5'11'' Sweazy showed flashes of things to come last season. In addition to her size, she showed a touch from the outside nailing the occasional three, and made 49 trips to the free-throw line. She appeared in all 27 games despite not starting any, and was able to score in double digits four times, including a season high 17 against Alfred.

Einink was the SUNYAC Rookie of the Year a season ago. She averaged 11.8 points, good for third on the team, and hauled in 7.1 rebounds. "She's not the tallest girl in there, but she can just score." said Hill-MacDonald. Einink appeared in all 27 games, and again will be a factor inside due to her rebounding and scoring abilities. Like Sweazy, she can also spread the floor with the ability to hit a three.

The freshman class consists of Anna Chiacchia (Hamburg/Hamburg), Abbie Tabone (Rochester/Churchville-Chili), and Trisha Lane (Liverpool, N.Y./Liverpool). Chiacchia showed some athleticism as one of the top players on the Blue Devil tennis team this fall.

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The team hopes to build on the momentum of last season and the atmosphere created around the tournament win in Steele Hall, "but we'd like to get a little further than [the semifinals]," said Hill-MacDonald.

"Defense. Defending the three-point line especially, and rebounding are our main focuses based on what happened a year ago."

Replacing Macaulay's numbers and leadership will also be no small task. Hill-MacDonald will look to multiple members of the team to do that. "We won't replace her with just one player. We want to get a little more out of a lot of people."

Depth, especially at guard, will be one of the team's strengths. The team will have the ability to go big and long, or smaller and quicker depending on matchups.

The always-tough SUNYAC is anybody's guess this year. Last season, two games separated the top five teams. The Devils swept regular-season champions New Paltz in the season series. However, the current seniors have yet to taste victory over Geneseo. Conversely, Fredonia had at least one win over every other SUNYAC team last year. Matching up and versatility may be the key factor in determining this season's champion.

The conference will begin to sort things out on Dec. 2 when SUNYAC play begins.

Before that, however, the Blue Devils open their season at home on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Steele Hall as they play host to Penn State Behrend. They will have five non-conference games to prepare for their run at a SUNYAC title.

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