Griffs begin MAAC play against Rider

By Robert Janish

Senior Sports Writer

After a 1-4 record in nonconference play to begin their 2016-17 regular season, the women’s basketball team will begin their Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference schedule tomorrow night when they host the Rider Broncos at the Koessler Athletic Center.

Heading into this matchup, Rider is currently 3-2 overall. However, they suffered recent losses against both the Central Florida Knights and the St. Bonaventure Bonnies, cooling off their 3-0 start to the regular season.

Although Canisius did get an important victory on the road against St. Bonaventure, that is their lone win thus far. They lost all three home match-ups this year to the Northeastern University Huskies and the Lamar University Cardinals by double digits, and to the Akron University Zips by single digits.

Sitting at 0-3 on home court to start the young season, the Griffs are looking for a spark on both sides of the ball in order to get their MAAC schedule started off on the right foot with a big win on Friday night.

Head Coach Terry Zeh says the key for his team to succeed is mainly defending the net and rebounding the ball at a greater rate than they have started the season with. Zeh said, “I think that’s a big part of our non-success, so we’ve been working hard on that and making sure we’re in the right positions and doing the right things,” like boxing out.

Senior guard Lauren D’Hont believes that, while Rider may be a different team this season, it will be a great first test for her team in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. D’Hont added that defense and rebounding are “two things that were a clear weak spot for us at the beginning, and we’ve been working on it ever since.”

Sophomore guard Maria Welch agreed, saying, “We’re just working on things that we needed to do in the games, and we’re just putting it all together for Friday.”

Coach Zeh further stressed the importance of defense and how to improve as a team, saying, “[We’re] just making sure that we’re doing the right things, the right position, mentality, going to get rebounds.” Zeh added that it takes a collective effort, that “we don’t have any one player that’s an all-star, that’s going to lead us into victory.” He said that the team consists of many good players that need to work together in order to achieve victory.

“Defense and rebounding, it’s the main thing we’ve been working on,” Welch said. Their team has great offensive potential in scorers like D’Hont, sophomore Sara Hinriksdottir, and Welch leading the team in scoring this season. Welch believes, “Once we get that together, I think we’re going to do very well because our offense, our flow of motion, is pretty good.”

“I definitely have a senior mentality with it being my last season, my last go-around,” D’Hont said. By accepting this role on the team, she can lead her younger teammates in understanding the importance each game possesses. While she believes everyone has a role to play and knows that the game is not just on her, she “likes the responsibility.”

Welch, although a sophomore, plays a leadership role for the underclassmen as well and can better relate to early success in college, due to her experience in a significant role last year as a freshman.

Concerning the MAAC, Zeh said, “You like to stare at the conference standings with wins from now until January, as opposed to with losses.”

D’Hont believes there is a greater importance when playing against MAAC opponents than playing teams not within their conference, stating, “MAAC games are awesome. This is what we look forward to throughout the entire non-conference schedule.” She said there is a different feel to MAAC contests and how “it’s just like any other game, but it counts.”

Despite their early 1-4 record, they are a much better team. “Our record doesn’t do justice as to how good we actually are,” Welch said, “so winning this game is going to help us mentally.” She believes a victory in their MAAC opener would be key in helping to build momentum going forward for their team.

Coach Zeh said that the key to victory would include preventing strong showing from Rider senior Robin Perkins, who is averaging 14.2 points per game. “We know what Robin likes to do; we [have] got to try [to] not let Robin do what she likes to do,” Zeh said, adding that she is also tough to guard when she is playing great.

D’Hont said that the Griffs’ match-up against Rider is pivotal, especially since she believes they are not looked at seriously enough heading into the conference schedule. “I think if we put a stamp on this first MAAC game and put a stamp as the win,” D’Hont said, “it will be good for the conference to see, and for our team to see as well.”

Zeh believes it’s important to begin MAAC play at home. He said, “When you start conference play, it’s definitely an advantage… Definitely have to take care of those home games.”

Welch says a win on Friday against Rider is very important because “if we win, people will actually start to understand how good we are, especially in MAAC play. We can show the MAAC teams what we’re really made of.”

The women’s basketball team begin their MAAC schedule tomorrow against Rider, and then face the Monmouth Hawks Sunday afternoon in a MAAC weekend doubleheader.

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