A 2015-16 season in which the Rowan women’s basketball team compiled a record of 23-6 and earned an at-large bid into the Division III Championship Tournament has come and passed.
After posting a commanding 93-75 victory over SUNY New Paltz in the first round of the DIII Tournament, the Profs were ousted following a 78-57 loss to Amherst College in the second round.
“Amherst is very good. They’re solid top to bottom. I thought we did some very good things against them. They average giving up 47 points per game and we got 10 more than that,” head coach Gabby Lisella said. “We said all along that if a team could handle our pressure and our pace for 40 minutes [it would be tough]. Well they did. We played well, they played better.”
Graduate forward Melissa Lake, had been on the national stage before with the track and field team.
“It was pretty similar with the strictness of the rules and the overall excitement and feeling,” Lake said. “The best of the best are in this. Overall it was a good experience.”
The tournament appearance was the first for Rowan since the 1999-00 season. During that year, the team went 24-4 before losing to Southern Maine in the third round. It’s also only the second time since 2000 that the Profs won over 20 games.
The brown and gold started their season by winning the Hampton Inn Tip-Off Classic in Grantham, Pennsylvania and stayed hot, winning their next nine games. It wasn’t until Dec. 31 that Rowan suffered its first loss.
New Jersey Athletic Conference play couldn’t slow down the Profs, either, as they breezed through their first nine conference games before dropping the tenth to Stockton University. During that stretch, Rowan defeated Montclair State University on the road, something they had not done in the regular season since 2000.
Rowan consistently turned to a line-up comprised of guards Anyssa Sanchez and Valerie Garofalo, forwards Kaitlin Schullstrom and Lake, and center Kate Matthews — the group started all 29 games together. Of the five, Lake, Schullstrom and Matthews were all graduate students.
“We were pretty successful last year, but obviously not as well as this year. Everything is hindsight. I didn’t think we’d be this good this year, so thank God,” Matthews said. “If you asked me a year ago if it’d be like this, I’d have said no. We always fell short and this is a year where we finally didn’t fall short.”
While the national tournament was more of a team accomplishment for the brown and gold this season, players were able to excel individually as well. At least one member of the starting five was present in almost every major NJAC statistical category.
Both Schullstrom and Matthews were also able to surpass the 1,000 point mark to close out their careers.
“It was a really good opportunity and I met a lot of good people. I grew as a person. The whole point of DIII basketball is to have fun,” Matthews said. “We’re not getting paid to be here. You should take away the experience and lessons into the real world. I learned a lot of valuable things in the past five years.”
With Matthews, Lake and Schullstrom now leaving, three spots are open in the starting lineup for next season. Lisella is still trying to figure out how she will replace their production, but has confidence in her team’s depth. As does Matthews.
“The program really turned around, so recruiting should be easier,” Matthews said. “I’m optimistic. I’d hate to see the program built up and then have it fall back.”
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