A team naturally takes a step backward when it loses its best player to graduation.
The Siena women’s basketball team believes it has a head start on the 2011-12 season, though, since the Saints were able to make a four-game tour of Denmark and Italy in August.
Siena lost two games to the Danish national team and beat two Italian all-star teams, and also was allowed by the NCAA to practice 10 times, so a team with six sophomores and four freshmen at least has had a chance to sort some things out that otherwise would have been reserved for the early part of the schedule.
Siena opens at home on Nov. 11 against Sacred Heart at the Alumni Recreation Center.
“It’s really not the start of our season, because we had an incredible opportunity this summer to go overseas to Denmark and Italy,” head coach Gina Castelli said on Tuesday during the annual media day. “We got valuable experience on the court for a lot of these young players. Honestly, it was a priceless opportunity for us.”
Senior tri-captain Lily Grenci, in particular, performed well on the trip, which is vitally important since the Saints’ post players will have to pick up the slack for the departed Serena Moore, who was an all-Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference second-team selection and by far the team’s leading scorer and rebounder last year.
“Serena can’t be replaced,” senior tri-captain Maja Gerlyng said. “It’s more about regrouping and finding other players who can step up. It will all come with time, when people will find their roles and know what they’re good at and what they’re not good at.”
The regrouping began at Gerlyng’s home in Horsholm, Denmark.
Her family hosted the team for two days, during which the Saints enjoyed Danish home cooking, a backyard fireworks display and a tour of Copenhagen.
“The one thing I think they were amazed by was how many people travel by bike,” Gerlyng said. “A few of them almost got hit by bikes, because we were just walking, and they’re not used to having bikes passing by all the time.
“We ate Danish meatballs, traditional Danish stuff. It was a great way for the team to come together. It was amazing. I always tell them that in Denmark, it’s different from over here. But it’s difficult to understand unless you’ve been there.”
“The sightseeing was great, the food at Maja’s was even better,” Castelli said. “It really helped build our team chemistry and overall was a valuable tool for us to build our team.”
The other tri-captain is senior guard Cristina Centeno.
She and Gerlyng are the top two returning scorers and the only players certain to start when the Sacred Heart game rolls around, although Castelli said she wants to see Grenci in the starting lineup.
After that, the coaching staff will fold in a a variety of young players, especially the sophomores, like the 6-foot-1 Clara Sole Anglada.
She’s a “completely different player” from last year,” Castelli said, and has worked on her three-point shooting, among other things.
The roster also includes Colonie High School graduate Tehresa Coles, a freshman guard.
Besides the team bonding that occurred on the trip, the practices and four games have given the Saints a chance to observe and experiment a little bit.
“I feel like we’re already a little bit ahead of where we normally are,” Gerlyng said. “[Usually] it is a mindset coming in to the first game thinking, ‘Let’s see how it goes.’ We’ll be more ready and know the level of competition.”
“Going into this year, we were able to take what we learned from this summer and say, ‘We like this, we didn’t like that,’ and we were able to tweak some things already,” Castelli said.
“We can go into our bench a little bit more and are harder to scout. In the past, we were probably a little bit more predictable, but we plan on using most of the post players that are out there.”
Some special promotional games on Siena’s schedule include an 11 a.m. Kid’s Day game against UMass on Dec. 21 and the annual Pink Zone game to benefit breast cancer research against Fairfield on Jan. 20.
Anyone attending the Nov. 15 game against Binghamton will receive a free ticket to the Siena’s men’s season opener on Nov. 16 against Navy.
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Categories: College Sports