LOUDONVILLE — The team’s roster went through significant changes, and the program’s coaching staff experienced a couple, too.
Through all that, Siena College women’s basketball head coach Ali Jaques expressed optimism Wednesday regarding the way her program has started the process of bouncing back from a 12-18 season that ended with a loss she termed “unacceptable” last March.
“I think we’re in a great spot. I really do,” Jaques said Wednesday inside Siena’s Marcelle Athletic Complex. “This summer’s workouts have been the best we’ve had in years.”
After last season closed with an 11-point MAAC tournament loss to an Iona squad the Saints had defeated by a combined 31 points during two regular-season matchups, Jaques said her program had “to get back to loving basketball.” In the weeks since Siena started its on-campus summer workouts, Jaques has appreciated the way her team that only includes seven returning players has attacked each day, both on the court and in the weight room.
“They’ve been a lot of fun to work with,” Jaques said.
Siena sophomore Lala Watts agreed that things “are a lot of fun” right now for the Saints who are focusing this offseason on improving their offense after a 2018-19 campaign in which they averaged 58.1 points per game and shot 38% as a team.
“Right now, we’re focusing on our offense and making shots,” said Watts, a 6-foot-3 center. “[Jaques] wants everyone to be a shooter.”
From last season, the Saints lost four of their top-five scorers because of graduation or transfer. Senior Sabrina Piper is the team’s leading returning scorer at 10.9 points per game, and no other returning Siena player averaged more than four points per game.
To help remedy Siena’s offensive issues from a season ago, Jaques added former Saint Francis (Pa.) head coach Joe Haigh to her coaching staff. As a head coach, Haigh’s teams played fast and utilized the 3-point shot.
“We’ve got to score more points,” Jaques said. “That’s something we’ve talked about as a team this summer. Analytically, we’ve just got to score more points. We’re always going to be a tough, hard-nosed defensive team.”
Siena also added former player Meghan Donohue to its coaching staff as the program’s director of basketball operations. Donohue — a former team captain who is the program’s all-time leader in games played and started at 128 — was Jaques’ first commit at Siena.
“To have her back in the fold is really cool,” Jaques said.
Donohue and Haigh, Jaques said, should help bring a winning mentality to the Saints. The same goes for freshmen Julia Hauer and Ashley Williamson, a pair of players who come to Siena with impressive resumes. Hauer was last season’s New York Co-Player of the Year in Class A, while Williamson is an espnW top-30 recruit at her position.
Williamson, a point guard from South Carolina, said she is eager to compete for playing time.
“Getting better. I just love getting better,” Williamson said of her focus this summer. “I love competing and I love winning. I want to win here.”
Siena’s summer workouts wrap up in early August.
“Hopefully,” Jaques said, “we’ll just continue to keep getting better.”