By Robert Janish
Senior Sports Writer
The Canisius women’s basketball season, although ended with a tough defeat, showed the grit and determination that the Golden Griffins possessed on the court throughout the year and what could be accomplished with that mentality.
Despite a rough stretch in the middle of December and a lot of scenarios in which they nearly went .500 throughout both non-conference and games within the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the showed improvement this year when compared to seasons past.
The team was led primarily by senior guard Lauren D’Hont, as well as Team “Fire & Ice”, referring to junior guard Margret Halfdanardottir and sophomore forward Sara Hinriksdottir. The Iceland forward quickly became one of the team’s most consistent players for the longevity of the season.
Hinriksdottir, D’Hont and Halfdanardottir greatly contributed to their success this year, as they were the team’s top scoring trio. They also were able to bring the team together during the tough times they had to face, include tough losses against Rider at home, as well as against Iona and Monmouth on the road.
Going into the season, head coach Terry Zeh believed it would be a year that would show off their youth. As a result, it would help the underclassmen mature in a situation that would benefit in years going forward.
Examples that would lead a youth movement on the team were Hinriksdottir, as well as sophomore guard Maria Welch and junior guard Saliah Serrette.
One of the main concerns Zeh had as the season progressed was the ability to defend and rebound the ball, while also being able to create chances from greater opportunities. It was the common missteps on defense and times when the shooting touch wasn’t very bright that games would go the other way.
Even though the team was unable to pick up a win over their Big 4 rival, University at Buffalo and perennial MAAC opponents in the Quinnipiac Bobcats and Monmouth Hawks, the program picked up big wins over the St. Bonaventure Bonnies, another Big 4 opponent and a regular season sweep over archrival Niagara Purple Eagles.
Throughout trials and tribulations that the season provided, the season ended with a similar MAAC record, reaching 8-12 in the conference. The record was good enough for 8th place heading into the MAAC Tournament in Albany last weekend.
Last Thursday, the Griffs began their MAAC Tournament run with a first round matchup against Niagara. They were hoping for a different result this time after a devastating loss ended their season one year ago.
Welch and D’Hont led the offensive attack for Canisius scoring 25 and 20 points, respectively, aiding the Griffs to push past Niagara in overtime, 80-74. The win advanced Canisius to the MAAC Quarterfinals facing the top seeded Quinnipiac Bobcats. At the tournament, Zeh said this game “was a fun one to be involved with”, and their style of play would translate into their Friday matchup against Quinnipiac.
In what could have been the team’s best performance of the season, Canisius could not hold onto the lead which they had for majority of the game. The Bobcats came out victorious over Canisius, 63-58, en route to claiming their third MAAC Championship in the last five years. The outcome was much different and really put on display the rough defense and offensive aggressiveness that the Griffs truly have.
“The fact that we got a win yesterday also boosts our confidence and you got to have confidence in each other, so that helps us a lot,” Serrette said after defeating Niagara.
Zeh said that his team took big shots during the game and their improved approach against Quinnipiac is what resulted in a tight matchup throughout the entire game. It illustrated what this team can be when they are firing on all cylinders.
“[Hinriksdottir] was having a tough game, but I’m really proud of how we competed,” Coach Zeh said after the lost to Quinnipiac. “I’m proud of how we handled ourselves.”
Perhaps the biggest of those shots was Welch’s four-point play that brought her team back into contention.
“When it went in, it was just a really good feeling, everybody behind me screaming, it hyped me up,” stated Welch. “I feel like it hyped everyone up and it was fun.”
Zeh also said that even though three seniors in D’Hont, Tamara Miskovic and fifth-year senior Emily Weber played their final games, their team is still very young.
“To get a win and play in this game, I think it gives them some energy and excitement to build on,” he said.
Serrette and Welch both showed excitement about next season and the potential they have for their team and what can be accomplished. They also like the incoming freshman and what they could bring to the team as well.
“We have to get the freshman prepared from the get go to have the mindset that we had coming into this tournament and it starts with the very first preseason workout,” Welch said.
With the best finish to a season in the last few years, the future of the women’s basketball program looks bright and the potential is there to have a successful season next year with this roster.
A close finish to Quinnipiac in the tournament and a three-game sweep of Niagara this season speaks volumes to the young core of the team and what they can accomplish.