The City Six women’s basketball season tips off Tuesday. There will be tournament contenders, and some rebuilding going on. And a legendary coach takes his final journey on the Main Line.
Here is a preview of Philadelphia’s Division I schools.
Last season, Penn won a share of the Ivy League regular-season championship, finishing 12-2 in the conference before falling to Princeton in the league’s tournament title game. With that wound still fresh, Penn will rely on some familiar faces as well as a few key newcomers to get back to the NCAA Tournament.
Leading the Penn offense this year is 6-foot-4 junior center Eleah Parker, who led the team in scoring last year with 15 ppg and was a dominant force in the paint, averaging 9 rebounds. Over the summer she took part in trials for the 2019 U.S. Pan American team along with 35 other top collegiate players. She was one of only six that weren’t from Power 5 schools. Penn coach Mike McLaughlin thinks some added maturity will make her even more dangerous.
One of the main questions facing Penn is who is going to take the mantle of Ashley Russell, one of last year’s top defensive players. Kennedy Suttle, a sophomore forward who impressed last season before missing time with a foot injury, could fill that role.
Though Penn will likely rely on a decent amount of youth this season, the Quakers are still primed with Eleah Parker to compete for that Ivy League crown.
-- Sam Britt
After last season, head coach Mountain MacGillivray met with players to give them a part of their game to work on in the offseason. The idea was that individual improvement would help the team build on its 6-25 record last year. MacGillivray is now in his second season and will lean on depth to help La Salle take the next step.
Deja King is the returning leading scorer. King averaged nine points last season and is known for her ability to score at the rim. King worked on improving her three-point shot this offseason, and she’s more confident in her ability to make them. MacGillivray also believes that King is the team’s best defender. Rutgers transfer Kate Hill will bring shooting to combine with King’s slashing ability, and Shalina Miller is a double-double threat every night.
MacGillivray also added five freshmen, who King described as each bringing “something different” to the team.
“We have a lot of different players that can do a lot of different things,” King said. “We have players that can attack the basket, shoot the three, and post you up.”
La Salle is emphasizing playing fast and ball pressure, and their depth should help. Added depth will lead to an improvement, but they’ll likely finish in the bottom half of the Atlantic 10.
-- Damichael Cole
With Harry Perretta in his 42nd and last season as Villanova’s coach, the team is motivated to send him out on a good note. For that to happen, Perretta said that he just wants to see improvement. The Wildcats finished 19-13 last season and made the WNIT.
Villanova will be led by preseason All-Big East selection Mary Gedaka, who averaged 14.4 points and finished third in the nation at 66 percent from the field. Four of the top five scorers from last season will be missing. Freshman Brooke Mullin wasn’t expected to contribute, but she has exceeded Perretta’s expectations because of her shooting. Redshirt freshman Madison Siegrist fractured an ankle last season and was forced to redshirt, but Perretta and Siegrist’s teammates are excited about her potential to stand out.
“She can play the perimeter and under the basket very well,” Perretta said. “Not saying she will, but she has the potential to be like Mary [Gedaka].”
Last year’s second-leading scorer, Kelly Jekot, will likely redshirt due to injury after averaging 13.8 points last season. The Wildcats are expected to play nine players.
-- Damichael Cole
Young and energetic: The first two words out of head coach Cindy Griffin’s mouth when describing this year’s St. Joe’s squad. Ten of the 14 players are underclassmen and six of them are members of this year’s freshman class. Griffin said she expects there to be at least two freshmen on the court at all times. For the Hawks, this will carry with it the double-edged sword of youthful energy and inexperience.
Of course, all eyes are going to turn to sophomore guard Katie Jekot, one-third of the Philadelphia Jekots, who is the leading returning scorer. She served as more of a third option last year so it will be a test for her to become the main contributor offensively.
Hoping to facilitate is junior point guard Lula Roig, one of the team’s few upperclassmen who will take over the position from Alyssa Monaghan, a four-year starter and last year’s captain. Roig is a much different point guard than Monaghan, relying more on driving and dishing than her shot.
The key freshman this year will be forward Claire Melia, who will start at center after spending most of her career playing against professionals in her home country of Ireland. Melia captained Ireland’s U-20 team to a bronze medal at the 2019 FIBA U-20 Women’s European Championships while averaging 16.3 points and 12 rebounds per game.
-- Sam Britt
A year after falling just short in the Colonial Athletic Association title game, Drexel brings back all five members of its starting lineup, led by the CAA’s 2019 player of the year, Bailey Greenberg. The 5-11 senior forward started all 33 games last season and led the Dragons in points per game (17.2), rebounds per game (7.2), and field goal percentage (47.4%). Niki Metzel, a 6-foot-2 senior forward, was Drexel’s next-highest scorer at 8.6 points per game. She also grabbed the second-most rebounds (5.3 per game) and blocked a team-high 19 shots.
“When you return your starting five, your core group, the bar is raised,” oach Denise Dillon said. “It’s not too common that this happens. … The experience factor has to carry some weight for us this year in order to be successful.”
Dillon was quick to name freshmen AJ Davis and Brianne Borcky as two players new to the Dragons who can make an impact on a deep and experienced team. Davis, a 6-1 forward from Baltimore, was named to the 2019 All-MIAA team and was a second-team All-Metro selection. Borcky, a 6-foot forward, played for Garnet Valley, where she captained the Jaguars to a PIAA district title and the state finals.
In the Colonial, the Dragons will have to try to beat a stacked James Madison team that lost one conference game last year and was the only Colonial team to knock off Drexel twice. Behind the Dukes, Drexel was the only other team to receive a first-place vote in the 2019 CAA preseason coaches’ poll.
-- Graham Foley
Coming off an 11-19 season, Temple will have to replace the production of guard Alliya Butts, who averaged 15.2 points per game and forced a team-high 62 steals. Luckily for the Owls, junior Mia Davis is still on North Broad following a season in which she was named All-Big 5 and All-American Athletic Conference. Davis, a 6-foot guard, finished second in the conference in points per game (18.9) and rebounds per game (9.2). Davis will run Temple’s team.
Davis should receive significant help from redshirt sophomore guard Ashley Jones. The Philadelphia native out of Neumann Goretti transferred from West Virginia and had to sit out last season. Jones played in all 37 games for the Mountaineers in 2017-18, finishing second on the team with 96 assists. Freshman Asonah Alexander, a New Jersey native who led The Patrick School with 101 assists last season, is also expected to contribute out of the backcourt. Last year, Davis combined with Butts to total 1,002 of Temple’s 1,955 points. This year, head coach Tonya Cardoza expects Davis to have more help around her.
“We have girls that can attack the basket, girls that can knock down shots, girls that can play one-on-one, and be a presence in the post,” Cardoza told the team site. “We’re comfortable with the ball being in anyone’s hands.”
In addition to a difficult conference schedule that features a home battle with women’s basketball juggernaut Connecticut and two games against tough teams in Central Florida and South Florida, Temple wasn’t shy in the nonconference portion. The Owls will host South Carolina, Xavier, Villanova, and Penn while also traveling to play North Carolina and Creighton in Cancun.
-- Graham Foley