Women’s Basketball Opens Season Nov. 13

McKinzee BarkerThe Monmouth women’s basketball team finished in fourth place in last year’s MAAC tournament, losing to Quinnipiac 66-59 in the semifinals. The semifinal appearance for the Hawks was the highest the team had finished in a conference tournament since the 2011 season. That was not the biggest loss for the team, however, as they would lose seven players (six seniors, one transfer) during the offseason.

The roster turnover has become the major headline entering the 2016-17 season for the Hawks, who welcome six freshman and two transfers to the roster.

This year’s freshman class is led by point guard Alaina Jarnot, who scored over 2,000 points and recorded over 1,000 assists in high school. The class also includes guards Kayla Shaw and Rosa Graham, as well as forwards Alexa Middleton, Adriana Zelaya and Taylor Nason. Adding to the newcomer list is a pair of transfers, Kayla Quintana, a junior guard from Scottsdale (AZ) Community College, and Rhaiah Spooner-Knight, a senior guard from New Zealand.

Head Coach Jenny Palmateer believes that all of these newcomers will fit her system nicely.

“We love to incorporate speed into our game plan each game,” Palmateer said, “and each of these players bring speed and toughness each day.”

Palmateer, now in her sixth year coaching the team, introduced a new system to the team, which preached offensive quickness and emphasized transition basketball. The overall goal is to get as many possessions as possible, with the target being right around 100 per game.

The Hawks also return many key contributors from last season, including four players that started at one point during last year’s campaign. Senior guard Tyese Purvis is the leading scorer amongst the returning cast, averaging 9.3 points per game in 2015. Senior forward Christina Mitchell returns with averages of 6.5 point per game and 8.9 rebounds per game. The team also returns junior guard Dana Carbone, sophomore guard McKinzee Barker, and sophomore center Erica Balman.

One final change to this year’s roster is the return of senior guard Helena Kurt, who sat out the entire 2015-16 season with a torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL). Kurt, during her sophomore season in 2014, averaged 10.2 points per game and 4.6 assists per game. She also finished third in the MAAC in assists per game, while record double figures in 14 games.

Starting 29 out of the 30 games during her sophomore campaign, Kurt figures to be in the mix to regain her spot this year. While her 30.8 minutes per game average seems unrealistic, due to her recovering knee, she still is primed to be a major factor for the Hawks this season.

Team chemistry will prove to be a major factor as the season progresses. One of the team’s key returners, McKinzee Barker, believes that the chemistry is already there. “Off the court we’re super close, so I can see that transferring onto the court,” Barker said.

With eight incoming players, there will obviously be a learning curve throughout the early portion of the season.

“The new ones are still learning how our team plays as a whole, but I can already tell they’ve picked up on a lot compared to when they first arrived in the summer,” Barker said.

Palmateer also believes that chemistry has already been formed.

“It’s a tribute to our returners as well as our newcomers,” Palmateer said. “Everyone is so unselfish and genuinely excited for each other when they do well on the floor. It encourages and sets the tone for a great atmosphere and a great culture for the team.”

While the team faces the process of developing chemistry, they will also face a number of tough tests throughout the season.

The non-conference slate for the Hawks features the likes of Northeast Conference champion Robert Morris, as well as Big East opponent Providence. No non-conference game will prove tougher than Atlantic Coast Conference opponent Clemson, who makes its way to West Long Branch on Nov. 19 for one of the biggest home games in the program’s history.

The Hawks will open up their season on the road, traveling to Robert Morris for a game scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 13 at 1:00 pm.

PHOTO COURTESY of Stockton Photo