WASHINGTON – The Catholic University women's basketball team opens the season on Tuesday with an exhibition game at Maryland. Meet your 2013-14 Cards and check out this season's competition slate.
Meet the Cardinals
The Catholic University women's basketball team is coming off another record-breaking season, where the Cardinals marched their way to a second consecutive Landmark Conference championship and advanced to the 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament. Last year's impressive 27-2 resume shattered the previous record of 22-wins that the 2011-12 squad set just a year earlier.
The most glaring difference this year is the absence of All-American Jill Woerner due to graduation, who was also named the Landmark Conference Player of the Year. Also gone from this year's roster is First-Team All-Landmark performer Katarina Owunna, as well as fellow starters Jenny McGann and Kelli Josephsen. In total, CUA lost eight seniors, including four starters, to graduation and will have to find a way to replace 48.0 points per game that the class of 2013 contributed on a nightly basis. After finishing the year ranked No. 11 in the nation by USA Today, Catholic is looking to reload rather than rebuild.
CUA head women's basketball Coach Matt Donohue welcomes 12 incoming freshman to the team, and believes that the newcomers will have a huge impact on the team's success. "We're very excited about this particular class of freshman. As a group they bring a great deal of versatility and talent to our program. They've done a tremendous job thus far acclimating themselves to our program while learning from and following the lead of a very strong returning group of players" said Coach Donohue.
The Cardinals have seven letter winners from last year's team back for the 2013-14 season. The lone starter returning for the red and black is senior captain Emily Grabiak, a First Team All-Conference player in 2013, and Second Team selection in 2012. As a junior, Grabiak was ranked No. 2 nationally with a 2.71 assist/turnover ratio, and also No. 11 with 5.5 assists per game. The dynamic guard led the team in 3-pointers (32), assists (160), and steals (74), while also adding 9.0 points and 5.8 rebounds per game.
Senior Liz Briones is looking to return to the promise she showed as a freshman when she was twice named the Landmark Conference Player of the Week. The San Antonio native spent the past two years dealing with an ankle injury that required surgery. Briones led the conference with a .538 field goal percentage as a freshman and averaged 9.1 points to go with 5.8 rebounds. Classmate Karlyn Dixon rounds out the class of 2014. Dixon was the first guard off of the bench for the Cardinals in 2012-13, averaging over 12 minutes per game as the backup point guard.
The lone junior for Catholic this year is Brigid Gannon, a 6-0 forward that is looking to compete for significant time in the rotation. Gannon has improved her consistency on her shot and brings tremendous energy to the floor.
All three of last year's freshmen are back for a second year. Josephine Migash, Jayni Webster, and Kristen Walheim are poised to considerably increase their contributions to the squad. Migash started five games last season and averaged 5.1 points to go with 2.3 rebounds in 11.5 minutes per game. Webster is looking to improve on the growth she showed at the end of last season, as the team's top reserve and 3-point specialist. Walheim will compete for a bigger role in the program with a much improved shot to go with the length and quickness she brings to the defensive end.
The Cardinals welcome 12 newcomers to an already talented returning group. The freshman class features athletes competing at the highest level in high school and AAU. Michelle Desantis led her Lauralton Hall team to the Connecticut State Championship game. Bridget Power won a Connecticut State Championship with Newtown. Sarah Merchant made an appearance in the Massachusetts State semi-final game at Algonquin, Bernadette Launi played for nationally-ranked Good Counsel, and won the WCAC Championship as a junior, and Mackenzie Gardner led IHA to the 2013 Bergen County Championship. Melissa Errico was named the MVP of the New Jersey North-South All Star Game and scored over 1,000 points at Old Tappan, Brianna Strahm was an All-County performer at Bishop George Ahr and led her team to two Conference Championships, while Hope LoPresti led Rumson Fair Haven to a group title in the New Jersey State Tournament. Other newcomers include Kelsie Bacon (St. Timothy's [Md.]), Elizabeth Bolchoz (Jupiter [Fla.]), Madison Gibbs (Bishop Guertin [N.H.]), and Nicole Tollevsen (Middletown North [N.J.]).
Catholic will play an Exhibition game vs. University of Maryland on Tuesday, Oct. 29. The teams were scheduled to play last year but the game was cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy. "When we connected with the University of Maryland our general feeling was that playing a team of that stature, culture, and established tradition of success would test us at the highest possible level, while also providing an outstanding life experience for the young women in our program. Coach Frese is easily one of the finest coaches in the game today. She exemplifies all that is great in our game; we are both fortunate and blessed that she would again provide our young women such a wonderful opportunity" said CUA women's basketball Coach Matt Donohue.
The Lady Cards will open the 2013-14 season on Friday, Nov. 15 at the Scotty Wood Tournament at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pa. The Cardinals will tip off against Misericordia at 1:00p.m., and then face either Rowan or Muhlenberg the following day. Should Catholic face Muhlenberg, it will be a rematch of the first-round 2012 NCAA Tournament game, where the Mules defeated the Cardinals 63-54 in the program's first ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament .
Last season, the Cardinals traveled to Puerto Rico over winter break for a couple of games and some fun in the sun. This year, the Cardinals will get another opportunity to see different parts of the country, though this time it will be a bit colder as CUA head women's basketball coach Matt Donohue will take the squad out west for a Thanksgiving Tournament at Colorado College. "We've always tried to take trips as a program that provide our young women with some memorable life experiences while also playing against great competition from different regions of the country. The opportunity to travel out to Colorado is one such opportunity and one that we greatly appreciate" said Donohue. The team will spend two days in Denver before traveling to Colorado Springs for games against Carleton and fellow 2013 NCAA Tournament participant, Otterbein.
Catholic again will host its 4th Annual CUA-Fairfield Inn Washington D.C. Holiday Tournament. This year's event features King's College (Pa.), Regis University (Mass.) and Clark University, as the Cardinals look to defend their tournament crown from last season. Regis is another NCAA Tournament tested team, as the Pride captured the 2013 NECC Championship, which earned them an automatic bid to the "Big Dance" last season. The Lady Cards will open the tournament at 2:00p.m. against King's, who made a run to the Sweet Sixteen in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Regis and Clark will square off in the 4:00p.m. game to decide who will compete for the championship trophy.
The rest of the non-conference slate consists of Bridgewater (Va.), Salisbury, Washington (Md.), and Gwynedd-Mercy. Donohue hopes that the tough schedule will help prepare his young team for the physical play once they hit league play in the ever competitive Landmark Conference. "We have the fortune to play in one of the toughest conferences in the country. Last year, for instance, four different programs were ranked in the top 25 in the nation at various points throughout the season, so in order to be prepared to compete in this conference we have to play a strong non-conference schedule" said Donohue. "Last year our strength of schedule ranked among the top twenty in the nation and we believe we've put together a non-conference schedule this year that will be equally as challenging."