LOUDONVILLE — Last season ended with a disappointing loss and head coach Ali Jaques declaring her program needed to get back to “loving basketball.”
During the summer, Jaques felt like her Siena College women’s basketball team was headed in the right direction. That optimistic tone has continued throughout the fall, and was evident Friday at the Saints’ media day event where Jaques spoke of her team’s “great preseason” fueled with the “new life and energy” it has gained from adding six new players and multiple new members to its coaching staff.
Most important, Jaques said, has been the work ethic her players have established leading up to the Saints’ first game Nov. 5 against Binghamton at Times Union Center.
“Their focus,” Jaques said, “is on basketball.”
Jaques left the 2018-19 season wanting her program to get back to that after a 12-18 campaign that closed with a loss in the first round of the MAAC tournament to an Iona team that had only won four games during the regular season. Besides adding talented newcomers such as freshman guard Ashley Williamson, Siena adjusted its coaching staff, adding former standout Meghan Donahue — a 2017 Siena graduate — as the program’s director of basketball operations and former Saint Francis (Pa.) head coach Joe Haigh as an assistant coach to lead the remaking of the team’s offense.
Scoring was a struggle last season for the Saints, as they averaged 58.1 points per game and shot 38% from the field. The plan this season is to seek more fast-break opportunities, and to up the Saints’ volume of 3-point attempts.
Already, the team’s revamped offense has helped foster more enthusiasm within the program.
“It’s so much fun because everybody feels like they have more responsibility and more freedom,” said guard Sabrina Piper, the Saints’ returning leader scorer and lone senior. “They’re not afraid to try something.”
“We’re definitely more fast-paced than last year,” said sophomore Amari Anthony, a guard Jaques said has been one of the Saints’ most improved players. “We’ll definitely get up and down the floor the whole game this year. We want to be a fast team.”
They want to be a more cohesive team, too.
“Every day,” Williamson said, “we come together as one and just try to get better.”
The 2019-20 season will be Jaques’ eighth leading the Siena program, which has had two winning seasons in her first seven campaigns. The optimism around the program, though, suggests a confidence that the Saints are capable of improving upon their finish last season of six games below .500.
“It’s a new start for us,” Piper said.