Women's basketball ready for season opener

Saint Joseph's College opens the 2013-14 campaign with a pair of games in the Curry College Tip-Off Tournament this weekend, beginning with a 5:30 p.m. contest versus St. John Fisher College on Friday, November 15.

With eight returners, including five seniors, back from last year, the Saint Joseph's women's basketball team figures to make a lengthy run in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Tournament this season.

Last year, Saint Joseph's went 16-11 overall and 9-3 in conference play under the guidance of 21st-year Head Coach Mike McDevitt '83. The Monks earned the #3 seed in the GNAC tourney and defeated #6 Johnson & Wales University, 59-45, in a quarterfinal contest but suffered a season-ending loss in the semifinal round, as the Royal Blue fell to #2 Suffolk University, 53-45.

Saint Joseph's, ranked third in the 2013-14 GNAC Preseason Coaches' Poll, looks to extend the season past the second round of the playoffs and beyond this winter. If the Monks reach the lofty goal of winning the program's first conference title since 2001, they will do so without the services of departed seniors Danyelle Shufelt and Alyssa Grigware. Shufelt started all 27 games and averaged 11.5 points, 2.7 assists and 1.9 steals per contest and led the team in three-pointers made (32) and free-throw percentage (85.3%) last winter. Grigware, an important bench player for the Monks, contributed 4.0 points and 2.7 caroms per game during the 2012-13 campaign. Both players will be missed for their contributions, on and off the court.

The 2013-14 roster is comprised of five seniors, one junior, two sophomores and six freshmen. Key returners include sophomore center Morgan Cahill (Yarmouth, Maine), senior forwards Lindsay Moore (Barrington, N.H.) and Abby Young (North Yarmouth, Maine), and senior guards Mackenzie Dufour (Augusta, Maine) and Theresa Hendrix (Scarborough, Maine/Cheverus).

Senior guard Skyler Makkinje (Hillsboro, N.H.), junior Sarah Assante (Standish, Maine) and sophomore guard Shannon McFayden (Ipswich, Mass.) also return and all three figure to log plenty of minutes for the Monks this season.

Dufour, a fourth-year starter, and Makkinje look to start at the point and shooting guard positions, respectively, while Hendrix, Assante and McFayden bring different skill sets to the table and will help make up a formidable backcourt rotation this season.

Dufour, a team tri-captain along with Makkinje and Assante, will quarterback the Monks' offense and drive the team's press options once again this winter after notching 4.4 points, 3.3 assists, 2.3 rebounds and 1.8 steals per tilt as a junior. Makkinje, a player with a high basketball IQ who played in all 27 games and averaged 1.3 points and 1.0 boards per game last year, has improved tremendously during her time at Saint Joseph's and her hard work has paid off with a starting spot as a senior.

Hendrix emerged as a starter halfway through the 2012-13 season and averaged 3.2 points, 3.7 caroms, 1.4 assists and 1.2 steals while serving as a defensive stopper for the Royal Blue. Assante, an outstanding backup point guard, broke out by averaging 4.9 points, 3.4 boards, 2.0 assists and 1.5 steals while logging 18.9 minutes per contest over 25 appearances as a sophomore. McFayden, a pure shooter, could emerge as one of the Monks' top three-point shooting threats after netting 2.0 points over 25 contests last season.

An intriguing freshman class includes four freshmen guards and all four figure to contribute in some capacity this winter. Danica Gleason (South Portland, Maine), Emily Kehoe (Perkinsville, Vt.), Jordan Maxwell (Hampden, Maine) and Abbie Eastman (Norway, Maine) have shown well during preseason practices and scrimmages and each player will be asked to fill valuable roles this year.

It is likely that Cahill, who paced the Royal Blue with 13.3 PPG, 8.0 RPG and 60 blocked shots as a freshman, will once again be the focal point of the Monks' offense this winter. A true post player, Cahill collected GNAC Rookie of the Year, MWBCA Co-Rookie of the Year, Second Team All-GNAC and Second-Team All-State accolades last season and seems poised to improve on her impressive freshman season.

Moore, the reigning GNAC Defensive Player of the Year, tallied 10.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game and led the conference with a 51.6% (130-252) field goal rate last winter. Young produced 7.7 points and 4.3 boards per game along with 32 rejections as a junior. Much of the Monks' success this year depends on the production put forth by this athletic pairing of post players.

Freshman Molly Mack (Portland, Maine/McAuley), a 6'0'' forward who excels on both ends of the court, and first-year Mikaela Rowell (Derry, N.H.) will also see plenty of time this season as well.

For more, visit www.gomonks.com.