ALBANY — When the University at Albany women’s basketball team first played Binghamton this season, it picked up something it had often lacked up to that point: a victory.
“That was our fourth win,” UAlbany head coach Colleen Mullen said after Tuesday’s practice at SEFCU Arena, a day before the Great Danes will host Binghamton in the postseason. “We entered the [conference] season 3-10, but we never talked about where we wanted to be in March. All we talked about is the next practice in the process, and we focused on getting better.”
The Great Danes followed that path well enough to secure a home playoff game in a season that was supposed to play out as a lost one in a rebuilding campaign made necessary after the program lost two coaches in a matter of two years. Along with the coaching departures that first saw Katie Abrahamson-Henderson head to Central Florida and Joanna Bernabei-McNamee go to Boston College, a variety of players left UAlbany and recruiting experienced some lapses because of the changes.
That left Mullen with only 11 players for her first UAlbany team, which features no more than three players in any one class. Overall, the Great Danes returned only 25.9 percent of their scoring from last season.
After a 1-9 start, though, UAlbany regrouped. The Great Danes have won 11 of 19 games since their dreadful start, and finished America East playing with a winning 9-7 record that netted them the No. 4 seed for the playoffs.
“We’ve been growing all year and this is finally the moment where we get to show how much we’ve grown from the beginning of the year,” UAlbany senior Heather Forster said ahead of her team’s 7 p.m. Wednesday quarterfinal game against Binghamton, a squad the Great Danes beat twice during the regular season.
While Forster and sophomore Kyara Frames have emerged as all-league players — Forster was named Tuesday a second-team all-conference selection, while Frame was a third-team pick — senior Amanda Kantzy credits the Great Danes’ turnaround to their coaching staff. Kantzy transferred to UAlbany from Colorado State to play for Bernabei-McNamee, but Mullen was in place by the time Kantzy was eligible to play for the Great Danes. That coaching shift initially left Kantzy “a little bit scared” of how things would work out for her at UAlbany, but those fears quickly were erased.
“I’ve just been so happy to play for them,” Kantzy said of her current coaches. “They work so hard for us and want the best for all of us.”
Mullen said she has stressed to her team to embrace the one-and-done severity of the postseason.
“You never want to get anybody freaked out or overly emotional,” Mullen said, “but you also want to just [acknowledge] reality that for the seniors, this could be their last practice, and to really enjoy it, and to be where your feet are and to not feel like you have any regrets.”
Forster said these Great Danes won’t after the recovery they’ve made in the second half of their season.
“We have nothing to lose,” Forster said.
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Categories: College Sports, Sports