WASHINGTON – The Gallaudet University's women's basketball team is looking forward to a new season and building off of a winning season last year. Under head coach Stephanie Stevens the Bison went 11-5 last season in the North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) and 15-12 overall, celebrating their first winning season in three seasons.
Although the Bison team suffered the loss of three seniors last year Coach Stevens, who is entering her third season, looks to five returning student-athletes to take charge and be leaders on the court. Stevens also has returning to her side, assistant coach Nikkia Smith, a second-year graduate assistant with the program. Last season, the former University of Hartford basketball player brought Division I experience and level of competition to the program and played a vital role in the communication between staff and players.
"With five players returning, we can see the difference in team camaraderie," said Stevens. "Our goal is to continue building a strong, committed female student-athlete on and off the court."
The Bison team has a total of 15 players with the five returning student-athletes, though not all are new to the program at Gallaudet. A few players have previous experience with the women's basketball team and their dedication to the program has helped practices to move smoothly and more efficiently. The team welcomes five brand new student-athletes to the basketball program.
Elena Ciccarelli (Whitesboro, N.Y.) is a four-year student-athlete returning for her final season as part of the Bison women's basketball team. Ciccarelli has started all 76 games of her career and has a total of 429 points, 202 came her freshman season where she scored second highest amount of points on the team.
"Elena is that amazing woman that can do anything and everything that a coach asks for," said Stevens. "She's that coaches' dream of being able to do whatever you tell her and she gives that to the players, she's a leader by action."
Senior Lane Peters (Phoenix, Ariz.) will also be returning for her second season with the Bison. Peters played an important role in her 22 games played last season as she scored 224 points and grabbed 233 rebounds. Also, returning is senior Leslye Kang (Wayne, N.J.).
"Lane is a stud, she can rebound anytime, anywhere, and we're hoping for more of a scoring threat from her this year. Leslye has always been that hardcore defender, always willing to take charges and go all out," said Stevens.
Senior Alexa Justus (Forks, Wash.) and sophomore Isabella Hasty (Fort Worth, Texas) have returned to the team after a hiatus from the program as well as Augusta Seremeth (Middletown, Md.), who hopes to add depth and power in post. The Bison have found height and strength in newcomer Danielle Morris (St. Louis, Mich), a two-sport transfer student, helped the women's volleyball team win a NEAC championship and return the NCAA tournament for a fifth straight year in the fall.
Junior Danielle Warren (San Jose, Calif.) and sophomore Jazzmin Washington (Orlando, Fla.) return to lead the team in the backcourt. Warren, who started in all 27 games last season, led the team in steals (61) and scored 214 points.
"Dani has really improved on and off the court, she's become the person we've always seen and she tries to give that to the team as well," said Stevens. "Jazzmin has been stepping it up and taking charges, she's done a lot in practice and has done wonders for us so far."
New to the Bison team this year are sophomore Juliana Apfel (Tucson, Ariz.) and three freshmen; Sabina Shysh (Tucson, Ariz.), Ashley Kingston (Stoneham, Mass.) and Kori Koss (Delavan, Wis.). Coach Stevens has high hopes for Koss as a new guard on the team.
"She (Kori) is just a great athlete, she has great basketball IQ. She'll look at things without us even telling her what we want yet and she does it," said Stevens.
Two new teams have been added to the NEAC this season; Bryn Athyn College and Penn College. Gallaudet faced Bryn Athyn last season, defeating the Lions 58-54.
The Bison will begin the 2014-15 season on the road at Winthrop University, a Division I program, that was ranked No. 23 by CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major poll. Winthrop is coached by former Gallaudet coach Kevin Cook. Cook coached GU women's basketball team for four years, two years with Coach Stevens as his graduate assistant.
The Bison are looking to see improvement and play as many players as possible to see who molds well together during its early part of the season.
"With our numbers we can move around a few players," said Stevens. "Which is really good because we need the diversity on the court, being able to transition anytime, anywhere, if you need someone to step it up, they can."
The Bison begin the North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) schedule with home games against Penn College on Nov. 19 and College of St. Elizabeth on Nov. 22. The Bison then hit the road to Randolph College on Nov. 26 for a non-conference game.
GU will then host its annual Holiday Tournament on Dec. 5-6 welcoming Valley Forge Christian College, Trinity College and Howard Community College to campus. These are the final games for the women's team in the month of December.
Returning from winter break the Bison will take on Randolph-Macon College on Jan. 3 at the Field House before hitting the road on Jan. 6 to face conference foe Penn St.-Abington. GU returns home to host new NEAC member Bryn Athyn College on Jan. 8.
Finishing the rest of the season against conference opponents, GU you will hit the road for two games, facing Penn College Jan. 10 and College of St. Elizabeth on Jan. 11. The Bison return home for three games against SUNY Cobleskill (Jan. 17), SUNYIT (Jan. 18) and Wilson College (Jan. 21).
Back on the road the Bison will take on Cazenovia College (Jan. 24) and Morrisville State College (Jan. 25). Gallaudet then closes out its home regular-season schedule with five games against Penn St.-Abington (Jan. 28), Lancaster Bible College (Jan. 31), Penn St.-Berks (Feb. 1), Keuka College (Feb. 7) and Wells College (Feb. 8).
The Bison wrap up the regular season on the road against Wilson (Feb. 14), Bryn Athyn (Feb. 18), Lancaster Bible (Feb. 20) and Penn St.-Berks (Feb. 21). The conference tournament begins on Feb. 24 and will continue through the weekend on Feb. 28-March 1.
The mix of old and new should bode well for the Bison as they seek to make a return trip to the NEAC tournament where GU fell to Wells, 54-51, in the semifinals. The veterans know what it takes to return the postseason and Coach Stevens can draw off her experience from the last GU team that made the NCAA tournament (2010-11) and hope to fulfill their goals this season.
2014-15 Gallaudet Women's Basketball Team