The 2015-16 season was one of the best in school history for the Carlow University women’s basketball team.
Under head coach Liz Stieg, the Celtics finished with an overall record of 14-16, made the USCAA National Championship Tournament for the first time in five seasons, and made the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (KIAC) playoffs. Carlow ended with a 6-9 record in KIAC play, finishing in the top eight teams in the league after being ranked 13th in the conference in the preseason. Seniors Natalie Alexander and Lynzi Mueller ended their Carlow careers by being named USCAA Division I Second Team All-Americans.
The Celtics will now be competing in the River States Conference, the new name for the KIAC, and enter the season ranked seventh in the conference. Several other changes also have been made to the coaching staff and team to prepare for a bright future.
“This year I have raised the bar on what it means to be a Carlow women's basketball player and teammate,” Stieg said.
Coming into the 2016-17 season, the Celtics add strength and conditioning coach Marissa McGraw. McGraw is a nationally qualified National Physic Committee (NPC) bikini competitor and will be a crucial factor in helping the team to success this season.
McGraw has the team doing lifts to target specific muscle groups and conditioning that includes exercises specially tailored to basketball, such as doing agility ladders, flipping tires, running interval sprints, and doing box jumps.
“Marissa has taken our preseason strength and conditioning workouts to a new level,” Stieg said. “Her workouts are innovative and will translate into practices and games for an edge other teams won't have.”
Lisa Fairman is another new addition to the staff, giving the Celtics three assistant coaches including former player and returning coach Erin DiSanti and returner Aaron Burton. Fairman is currently the head coach of the Belle Vernon High School girls’ basketball team, where she coached current Carlow player Bria Rathway.
Seven new players – three forwards and four guards – join the team this season. New additions are forward Emma Stille (F/Columbus, Ohio), forward Felicia Moon (FR/Pittsburgh, Pa.), forward Mariah Evans (FR/Beaver Falls, Pa.), guard Delaney Daly (FR/Pittsburgh, Pa.), guard Caroline Willig (FR/Pittsburgh, Pa.), guard Reanna Turner (FR/Pittsburgh, Pa.) and transfer guard Alexis Yanief (SO/Pittsburgh, Pa.). Ten players return from last season, none of whom are seniors.
“I have huge expectations for all my returning players” Stieg said. “I expect them to step up and lead vocally and by example, especially because we are a very young team.”
The addition of the incoming forwards – two more than six feet tall – will give the team the height advantage they lacked last season. The Celtics hope to convert this into increases in points scored in the paint and rebounds.
The team was already guard heavy, but the Celtics believe the addition of the incoming guards will bring increased quickness and an improvement in shooting percentage.
“My expectation is that every player coming through this program will end their career not only a better basketball player, but a better person,” Stieg said. “As far as expectations on the court, I think we can definitely build on last season's success of making it into our conference's post season playoffs and playing in the USCAA national championship.”
The team held its first official practice of season on October 11. On Friday, Oct. 28, the Celtics host Chatham in their first scrimmage, at Oakland Catholic. Soon after, they will take a three-day trip to the birthplace of basketball in Springfield, Mass. for a scrimmage against American International College (AIC).
The first official game of the season will be played November 9th, at 7:30pm, against USCAA opponent Penn State Fayette, at Oakland Catholic High School.