W Basketball 11.08.17

Women’s Basketball to Open Season Against Sacred Heart

After losing in the second round of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Tournament in 2016, the Monmouth University women’s basketball team hopes to take the next step forward in the upcoming 2017-18 season.

The team returns seven players that averaged 12 minutes or more during the 2016 campaign, including sophomore guards Alaina Jarnot and Kayla Shaw. Jarnot led the team in assists, while averaging 6.1 points per game in 31 games, while Shaw broke the program record with 93 three-pointers made in route to a spot on the MAAC All-Rookie Team. Monmouth also returns solid rotation players such as sophomore guard Rosa Graham, junior guard McKinzee Barker, and sophomore forwards Alexa Middleton and Taylor Nason.

“It’s going to have such an impact on our season,” Barker said. “Everyone is returning, and our style of play is just as fast as it’s always been. Everyone has so much experience under their belt from last year, and I think it’ll help bring everything together for us.”

They also welcome in three new players, all of which look to make an immediate impact. Senior guard Rhaiah Spooner-Knight will play her lone season for the Hawks after sitting out in 2016 due to transfer rules. Spooner-Knight, a native of New Zealand, was named to the 2015 All-WAC Second Team as a member of Utah Valley State, averaging 13.4 points per game. Freshman forwards Selina Dockery, a Finland native, and Carol Arfinengo, a Spain native, both bring overseas experience with them into their debut seasons with the Hawks. Dockery averaged close to five points per game in 18 minutes for Helmi Basket, while Arfinengo played meaningful minutes for Rivas Ecopolis, which is regarded as a top club team in Spain.

“I’m only one-and-done,” Spooner-Knight said. “I sat out last season and got to watch the team play. I get a different vibe from this year’s team, with our new coaching staff, which I’m really excited about. I’m just excited to get out there and play.”

The program also had major coaching changes, as Head Coach Jenny Palmateer welcomed in three new assistant coaches to her staff: Jody Craig, James Young, and Janet Butler. Craig made the trip across the country after being the head coach at Foothill College in California. During her 20-year collegiate coaching career, Craig posted a record of 448-164, developing 28 All-State players and helped 65 players transfer to NCAA programs. Young brings a heavy Jersey Shore presence, as he was the head coach of Red Bank Regional High School for seven years. In all seven seasons, he led his team to the playoffs, and his 2016-17 team had the most wins at the school since 1998. Butler enters the program after serving as an assistant coach at the University of Nevada. She also served as a co-captain for a nationally ranked Louisiana College team that reached the DIII playoffs in 2010 and 2011.

“It’s a real credit to my assistant coaches that it has been a seamless transition,” Palmateer said. “I really feel like they all are very different but very similar in the ways they impact our program. Their enthusiasm for our team, and being a part of our program and Monmouth University is unmatched. They’ve done a phenomenal job.”

Monmouth received a decent amount of attention in the MAAC Preseason Coaches’ Poll, as they were selected to finish fifth in the conference. The Hawks were picked to finish seventh in last year’s poll, and have improved their preseason rank each of the past three years. To add to the preseason accolades, Shaw was selected to the Preseason All-MAAC Third Team. Monmouth hopes to build on growing their success in the postseason as well, as they have advanced to the MAAC Tournament quarterfinals for four straight years.

“Being picked fifth is a great honor,” Palmateer said. “It’s picked by the fellow coaches. I think that shows a respect for our program and where we are heading.”

Monmouth opens their season on Friday, Nov. 10, as they will host Sacred Heart at the OceanFirst Bank Center. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:00 p.m.

PHOTO COURTESY of Monmouth Athletics