The Campaign

2016-17 WBB Outlook

Courtesy: Rider Sports Information
         
Release: October 03, 2016
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Courtesy: Peter G. Borg (Rider University)

2016-17 Rider Women’s Basketball Outlook

Life’s a journey, not a destination.

The Rider University women’s basketball team is looking to modify that sentiment just a little bit as the Broncs head into the 2016-17 basketball season; work hard and enjoy the journey with the destination culminating in a shot at the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference basketball championship title at the Times Union Center in Albany, New York in early March.

Rider returns nine letterwinners and three starters from a squad that battled all the way back from a 17-point deficit in the conference playoffs against host Siena, only to lose the game in overtime.

“Your prep and development of your game is critical to the development of the team,” said 10-year head coach Lynn Milligan.  “This group is committed to doing the extra things and has self-discipline.  If all 15 people take steps forward individually, you know you’re in a better position.  The upperclassmen have done a great job teaching and the younger kids have really picked things up quickly.”

And while the overtime loss hasn’t consumed the squad during the offseason, you can bet that individually the last game result has fueled the fire for the nine returnees.

“We have an extended roster this year,” said Milligan.  “We feel like we solidified a couple positions and built our depth.  We worked really hard to find quality players to fill out our roster and help us.”

Leading the veterans on the journey to Albany will be seniors Robin Perkins and Julia Duggan who along with Taylor Wentzel and Yeliz Dogan make up a core that has 256 games played in their careers and a group that started a combined 100 games last season.

An 85-game veteran (59 games at Rider) from Willingboro, New Jersey (Trenton Catholic), Perkins was an All-MAAC Second Team honoree as a junior who in 28 games (27 starts), led Rider averaging 15.2 points per game, which was third best in the conference while ranking fifth in the MAAC averaging 1.8 steals per game.

“Robin has grown immensely in this offseason not just with her play, but her actions,” said Milligan.  “I’m excited to see where she helps take us.  She is obviously our go to player.  I think we’ll see an improved shot selection and defense on a more consistent basis.  She’s so athletic and quick that she can be a shutdown defender and is poised to do so, but she has to score for us to be successful.”

A 91-game veteran from Marmora, New Jersey (Ocean City), Duggan enters her senior season 14th all-time on Rider’s career rebounding list with 552 and she averaged 31 minutes per game and was one of only two players to start all 30 games last season.

“I’m looking for Jules to have a new sense of urgency,” Milligan said.  “She’s gotten stronger with her moves on the court and her mental toughness off the court and that will carry over to where she’ll be that inside scoring option with Robin complementing her on the outside.  She’s been consistent the last three years and she is working hard to take that last leap forward.  Jules wants to win and lead this team and she has put herself in a position to do so.”

From Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Wentzel also started all 30 games for Rider in 2015-16, logging over 30 minutes per game after injuries limited her to just under 15 minutes per game as a sophomore.

“Taylor knows what it’s going to take,” Milligan said.  “She’s committed to running the team and will be transitioned back to point guard which will be more natural to her in a leadership position.  She was relatively healthy last summer.  She has asked a lot of her body as a fifth year senior.”

From Ismir, Turkey, Dogan, who played in 21 games as a junior (13 starts), took an unexpected journey into the training room in late January after she tore her ACL against Marist College.  Dogan averaged almost 20 minutes per game in 2015-16 and had logged 28 minutes a contest in the two starts prior to her injury.

“Yeliz has had an amazing recovery and has worked above and beyond this summer,” Milligan said.  “She knows it’s her last season.  I’ve only seen one other player (Manon Pellet) come off an ACL injury faster.  If she continues to stay healthy, when the game slows down, she’ll be a very versatile stretch-four.  It’s tough when you come in as an international JUCO from multiple transitions, but she has turned all of those potential negatives into positives.  She has been cleared and ready to go for the start of the season.”

Milligan is excited about the experience that her current seniors bring to the court.

“The core has been around for a long time, so we are looking forward for them to take the next and final step,” Milligan added.  “I think inexperience was a big factor last year.  We came up short in a couple games and had some growing pains.  The seniors are obviously playing with a sense of urgency and a renewed sense of “this is it”. They have all bought in to the preparation.”

Rider’s junior returnee is Kamila Hoskova.

From Brno, Czech Republic, Hoskova won the team Academic Award, Most Improved award and was named the team's Defensive Player of the Year in 2015-16 after appearing in all 30 games as a sophomore.  Hoskova was ninth in the MAAC in field goal percentage (.433) and tied for 11th in the conference averaging 1.4 steals per game and she was second on the team in scoring and steals and third in rebounding.

“Kami has versatility that is really good for us,” Milligan said.  “She played the four after Yeliz went down and was an X-factor for us down the stretch.  Her scoring role is going to expand and I know she’s ready to take that next step.”

Rider returns four sophomores, Johnnah Johnson, Kristina Olikhver, Lexi Posset and Lexi Stover, a group that combined for 86 games during their respective rookie campaigns.

From Blackwood, New Jersey, Johnson appeared in 17 games, all off the bench as a red-shirt freshman in 2015-16, averaging 8.1 minutes per game.

“JoJo had a good summer,” Milligan said.  She is also an X-factor for us and she’s ready to take that next step as an inside presence with Julia (Duggan).  It’s something that she wants and she can be a great screener for us, finish, and get rebounds.  She is developing into a player that does all of the dirty work and it’s a role she has grown to embrace.”

Olikhver, from Moscow, Russia, appeared in 11 games, all off the bench as a Rider rookie, averaging 3.4 minutes per contest.

“Kristina worked hard over the summer,” said Milligan.  “I think we’ll see somebody different this year. She has developed her skill set and that gives us more depth at the guard spots.  She is handling the pace of the game better than last season.”

From Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Posset appeared in 28 games, making six starts as a Rider rookie in 2015-16 and was the top three-point shooter on the squad at 36.4 percent.

Lexi Posset was in the gym all summer and put forth a fantastic effort in the off season,” Milligan said.  “She has done a great job in a leadership role as a scoring point guard. I feel I have two true starters at point guard at the Division I level.  Being a freshman point guard doesn’t come easy, not only are you responsible for yourself, but for the entire team.  You need to put your teammates in successful situations and she understands it now and wants more.”

From Malvern, Pennsylvania, Stover played in all 30 games as a Rider rookie and was fourth on the team in three-pointers made.

Lexi Stover was the hardest worker all summer,” said Milligan.  “She was always in the gym and I am optimistic that dedication will pay off.  She has worked on her ball handling to expand her game away from being pigeonholed as a lefty shooter.  She felt like she had some unfinished business at the end of last season and now she also has a better understanding of the speed and pace of the game.”

Rider’s newcomers are led by junior transfer Asyana’e Muwwakkil along with freshmen Zhane Barnes, Tracey Goodman, Stella Johnson, Safie Tolusso and transfer Lea Favre.

Muwwakkil comes to Rider from Rowan College of Burlington County.

“Asyana’e is going to be in the same position Yeliz (Dogan) was in last year (as a transfer),” said Milligan.  “She is going to add depth in the post for us.  The biggest transition is speed of the game, because she has the size and strength to contribute immediately.”

Barnes comes to Rider from Stafford, Virginia where she averaged 18.6 points, 5.2 assists, 5.0 steals and 5.9 rebounds per game in her two seasons (41 games) at Fredericksburg Academy.

“Zhane adds to our point guard depth,” Milligan said.  “We want her to learn from (Lexi) Posset and (Taylor) Wentzel how to play point guard at this level.”

From Lansdale, Pennsylvania, Goodman was a two-time team captain and was the team Most Valuable Player as a junior at Phil-Mont Christian Academy where she averaged 14.5 points and 11.0 rebounds per game as a junior.

“Tracey has high expectations on her with all of our post depth,” Milligan said.  “She looks like a back-to-the-basket player, but prefers to play away and stretch the floor.”

Stella Johnson is from Denville, New Jersey where she was a four-year letterwinner and Erin Nieswand Memorial Most Valuable Player for the three-time Sectional Champions at Morris Catholic.

“Stella is our quietest asset,” Milligan said.  “Once she gets confidence in our offense, we see her as another X-factor in our guard depth.”

Tolusso comes to Rider from Vevey, Switzerland. 

“Safie is in that group that adds guard depth and we see her having more of a scoring role,” Milligan said.  “She reminds me of a young Robin (Perkins) with her length and speed which will cause mismatches on the offensive end of the floor.”

Favre is also from Switzerland and will be eligible to play in 2017-18 after transferring to Rider from Nevada.

“Lea, as a transfer, will push Jules, JoJo, and Asyana’e tenfold in their post games in practice,” added Milligan.

“My staff has worked tirelessly to bring in quality student-athletes to join our Lady Bronc family,” Milligan said about the newcomers.  “These young ladies represent what we are always looking for to wear the Rider uniform.”

Milligan also returns her entire coaching staff for the second season in a row and has been with her Associate Head Coach Pam Durkin for all 10 seasons as the Bronc head coach.

“It’s hard to believe it’s been that long,” Milligan said.  “Rider is a special place and I’m happy to start my 10th year.  I’m glad I have honest and loyal staff that works extremely hard for the student-athletes.  It puts you in a special spot.  And to have somebody like Pam that believes in what you are doing for that long is something special and very rare in this profession and I’m incredibly thankful that we have gotten to work together for this long.”

As always, Milligan thinks the conference will be wide open.

“The MAAC is a league that is growing,” said Milligan.  “The talent of the players across the board is increasing.  The same great coaches are back and talent and level of intensity and play continues to grow each time on the floor.  There are a lot of teams that can put themselves in a position to be successful and we will have to wait until the journey to March is complete to see where it ends up.”

Enjoying the journey to get to the destination for a chance at a MAAC Title.  The goal for the Rider women’s basketball team.

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The Campaign