The secret is out. Don’t take the University at Albany’s women’s program lightly, because these Great Danes have quite a bite.
After posting a surprising 16-13 record in head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson’s first season — quite a turnaround from an 11-19 mark the previous campaign — UAlbany won’t be able to sneak up on its opponents any longer.
“We’re going to take it game by game, but we do have high expectations,” said senior guard/forward Ebone Henry, the team’s leading scorer a year ago (14.3 ppg) and a preseason America East Conference first-team all-star.
“We worked very hard last year, and we’ve come a long way. We know coach’s system. It took a couple of games to feel comfortable, but once we did, everything worked out great. This year, we’ve got a nice crop of seniors, and we’ve grown a lot closer. We have great team chemistry. When you have great chemistry, it makes learning all the stuff on the court a lot easier. We trust our teammates.”
“Mentally and physically, this team is stronger than a year ago,” said Abrahamson-Henderson, whose Danes finished fifth in conference play. “We are fitter and healthier. We have 13 players who can each make a contribution. I can mix up the roster and play different styles. I would say we are very confident without being cocky. Players like Julie [Forster], Cassandra [Callaway] and Ebone have a swagger.”
Abrahamson-Henderson, who brings back four starters to provide an anchor for a couple of impact freshmen, is expecting big things from her team.
“We play hard, tough and smart. We know our foundation,” she said.
“I think last year, when we were picked eighth, that was a source of motivation. We live one day at a time. We don’t think about March at all. We think about today and today’s practice, and that’s it, because tomorrow is not promised, and yesterday is gone, so we just worry about that day at task.”
Along with Henry, the league’s defensive player of the year, the Danes bring back starters Forster, Callaway and Keyana Williams.
Forster, who produced nearly 10 ppg and blocked 27 shots, led the conference in rebounding for the second straight season with a school single-season record 292 caroms (9.8 per game), while Callaway, a fine perimeter shooter who averaged 10 ppg as a junior, takes over at point guard from the graduated Felicia Johnson. Williams, a 6-foot-2 junior, is a shot blocker and strong defender.
Three newcomers who will each see plenty of playing time are 5-9 guard Allysia Rohlehr from Island Park, 5-9 guard Sarah Royals from Torrington, Conn., who will split time at the point, and 6-9 center Megan Craig from Whangarei, New Zealand.
“Sarah will play a lot of minutes right away for us,” Abrahamson-Henderson said. “She is a very quick learner. Megan is our X-factor. The backboard is going to be her friend. Every time the ball goes up, she will say, ‘That’s mine.’ She has about a 7-5 wing span. It will probably take her a little bit longer to develop, but she’s the tallest player we’ve ever had. She’ll contribute a lot.”
The Great Danes open the season tonight at Fordham, and host La Salle on Sunday.
“We are excited, very healthy, look like a team and look together,” the coach added. “Our slogan for this year is ‘One team, one heartbeat.’ We look completely different from last season at this time. They are very strong physically, and that makes them very strong mentally.”
For ticket information, call 442-4683 or visit [email protected] Season tickets are $75 for courtside, $50 for chairback, $35 for reserved and $15 for reserved child. Individual game tickets are $15 for courtside, $10 for chairback, $5 for reserved and $2 for reserved child.
Tonight — at Fordham, 8; Sunday — LA SALLE, 2; 16 — at Iowa, 8; 19 — at Brown, 7; 22 — at Toledo, 7; 27 — ST. FRANCIS, N.Y., 1; 30 —at Long Island, 7.
3 — at Siena, 4; 6 — NIAGARA, 7;
18 — SACRED HEART, 2; 22 —at Canisius, 5; 29 — vs Florida International in FIU Sun and Fun Classic, 6; 30 — vs. Auburn or Charlotte in FIU Sun and Fun Classic, 4 or 6.
2 — at Hartford, 7; 4 — UMBC, 7; 8 — at Stony Brook, 5; 11 — at New Hampshire, 7; 14 — at Maine, 2; 16 — BOSTON UNIVERSITY, 7; 19 — VERMONT, 12; 25 — at Binghamton, 7; 28 — HARTFORD, 3.
1 — at University of Maryland Baltimore County, 7; 4 — STONY BROOK, 4:30; 8 — NEW HAMPSHIRE, 7; 11 — MAINE, 2; 15 — at Vermont, 7; 18 — at Boston University, 3;
22 — BINGHAMTON, 7.
Home games in CAPS.
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Categories: College Sports