Changing the culture

Rachel Robertson

Women’s team has slow start in 2015-16 season

With the third quarter time clock winding down, sophomore Sammy Stipa sunk one of the most difficult shots in basketball—a buzzer-beating half court heave that thrilled a Kirby Sports Center crowd already riding on the excitement of Lafayette’s almost 30 point lead over St. Francis Brooklyn.

Everything seemed to be going right for Stipa, who ended the game with a double-double and a career-high in assists and points, and the rest of the Lafayette women’s basketball team, who decidedly handled SFBU from the opening tip off, never relinquishing their early 11-0 lead. Lafayette’s defense was its strongest of the season, especially in the first quarter when SFBU had only one made field goal.

This dominant team didn’t look like one that had started the season with five straight losses and often played from behind. A tight 72-69 win over St. Peter’s the week before was the Leopards’ first of the season under new head coach Theresa Grentz.

Lafayette’s early-season struggles stemmed from a combination of factors, namely playing good teams before being able to “click” as a team and with Grentz’s system of basketball.

“I feel like we’re slowly getting there. We’re developing,” Stipa said. “The teams we played were good teams, you have to give them that, but we could have beat them. It’s just a learning experience… Her style of play is completely different from what we were used to. We were used to playing more as individuals worrying about ourselves. Now it’s all about the team.”

Grentz joined the team last season as an assistant to former head coach Dianne Nolan who coached the team for five seasons before retiring. Prior to her start at Lafayette, Grentz owned at 671-311 lifetime coaching record.

Adjusting well to the system is freshman Angela Ribarich who has kickstarted her Lafayette career with Patriot League Rookie of the Week honors following a career-high 15-point game in the win against St. Peter’s.

“We say that [the post] is her house, she just totally dominates down there,” Stipa said. “She’s making huge impacts on our games which is great, especially as a freshman.”

The Leopards new-found confidence took a bit of a set back in their 69-48 loss to Wagner Wednesday night. Shooting just 30.2 percent from the field, the team couldn’t stifle a few double-digit scoring pushes from the Seahawks.

For the team, this season is about making a statement. Their record in past seasons hasn’t been all that great, and this group is looking to change the culture surrounding the team and push for a Patriot League Championship.

The preseason polls tabbed Lafayette to occupy the basement in Patriot League standings, and the Leopards are hoping to supplant that early prediction.

“We’re the underdogs. We have nothing to lose,” Stipa said. “That’s the best part about this whole thing.”