Einink, Blue Devils, lace up for season debut

Special to the OBSERVER

The women’s basketball team has big shoes to fill with the loss of one of its most prolific players in Alexis Cheatham and a pair of starters in Kathryn Halloran and Jamie Curry. On the other hand, the team returns two starters several bench players that have proven capable to score and rebound at the college level, as well as four freshman that bring a variety of skills.

About last year

Overall 17-9; finished 11-7 in the SUNYAC, fifth place.

Top returnees

Jenna Einink (Chautauqua Lake): A junior, finished top-five in the conference in points (13.7), rebounds (7.8), blocked shots (39) and field goal (FG) percent (43.6 percent); added 2.4 assists per game, had six double-doubles.

Jacque Law: A senior, averaged 10.2 points and 5.0 rebounds, made 16 threes and had 53 assists.

Alisha Szumigala (Forestville): A senior, averaged 4.8 points and 5.7 rebounds.

Freshman faces

Jayla James: Point guard with great vision and ball skills. Sydney Turley: The first 1,000-point scorer in Cleveland Hill. history, tremendous athlete.

Lauren Cullinan: A versatile athlete with exceptional speed and intensity; was a starter for the women’s soccer team this fall.

Alexis Grissom: Stands at 6’3”, forward from Jamestown that adds an inside presence.

Key Losses

Cheatham: Led the SUNYAC in scoring (16.9), assists (4.1) and three pointers (98); First-Team All SUNYAC and Third-Team All Region. Finished in team’s All Time Top 3 in threes (267, first), scoring (1,366, third), and assists.(385, third).

Khee Nance: Averaged 5.5 points per game, 2.9 rebounds, one of top players off the bench.

Halloran: Started 25 games, 5.0 points, 5.2 rebounds.

Curry: Started all 26 games, averaged 3.6 points and 4.3 rebounds.

Einink and Law return to the starting lineup. Einink, a 5’10” forward was one of the top scorers and rebounders in the conference. But don’t overlook her ability to stretch the defense with an occasional three and some nifty passing. A starter since her freshman year, Einink will be counted on for more that her skills. With the graduation of four key players, head coach Linda Hill-MacDonald will look for her to take an additional role. “Her experience is evident in her third year… and she will be called upon for leadership,” said Hill-MacDonald.

New year, new squad

Law is a scrappy player that also averaged double digits in scoring a year ago. Her value also lies in the intangibles. “[Law] will take a primary role in leadership and be a role model for the younger players,” said Hill MacDonald, who also pointed out Law has really taken to that role during practices.

Szumigala came off the bench last season and provided scoring and rebounding. Hill-MacDonald describes her as very, very consistent with a high basketball I.Q., and at the end of the game, “she shows up all over the stat sheet.”

Junior Justice Nauden came off the bench in all 26 games last year. She will be asked to handle a lot of duties at the point guard position. “I have a lot of confidence in Justice,” said Hill-MacDonald. “She is a really talented player.”

Emily Lasher is finally healthy for her senior season and has been working in at the post position. “I am pleased with her grit and determination,” said Hill-MacDonald. “She fights (in the post) as an undersized player.” Lasher will be asked to play both in and out as the team needs after playing guard her previous three seasons.

The team has four sophomores that had an opportunity to learn from some outstanding players last year, and now they will compete to fill minutes.

Anna Chiacchia will challenge for a starting role as the three guard. Abbie Tabone and Trisha Lane — both 5’11” forwards — add size inside.

Heaven Rollek, a guard, returns after a year in the Navy reserves and played well in a pair of pre-season scrimmages.

Four freshmen join the fold this year. Turley and James played together at Cleveland Hill High School in Buffalo. Turley is described as extremely athletic, and will improve as she gains experience at the college level. James will fight to see action at the point as the season moves along. At 6’3”, Grissom is a force under the hoop. Cullinan joined the team late — after her soccer season — but has made up for that with her effort, energy, and speed.

The team opens up this today at Allegheny College when they take on Carnegie Mellon in the Gator Tip-Off Tournament. The home opener is Monday, Nov. 27 vs. Hilbert. The hunt for a SUNYAC Title begins Dec. 1 and 2, when the team travels to take on conference foes Plattsburgh and Potsdam.

SCHEDULE NOTE: The game at Medaille has been moved back a day from the original schedule to Sunday, Nov. 26th with a 2 p.m. start in Buffalo.