With regular season practices underway, the Ithaca College women’s basketball team is hard at work preparing for another successful campaign.
The Bombers finished the 2018–19 season with a record of 25–6, an impressive feat that brought them to the title of Liberty League champions. For the second time in program history, the team also made it to the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament.
Five seniors graduated last year, and three of them were starters. The loss of those individuals will leave several gaps in the lineup for the squad to fill.
Former point guard Annie Giannone ’19 is one player that will prove to be a significant loss to the Bombers. Giannone finished her last season ranked second on the team in points, with a career high of 314 points, 131 assists and 103 rebounds. Former guards Allie Tunick ’19 and Meghan Pickell ’19 also contributed to the team greatly and left spots to fill for the Bombers.
Head coach Dan Raymond, who is in his 20th season with the team, said he has been very mindful of the open slots and believes that replacing those seniors will have to be a team effort.
“With the loss of Annie and what she meant to this program last year, we don’t have anybody that can do what she did individually,” Raymond said. “So there are going to have to be contributions from everyone. We’ll have to make up for everything that she did for us.”
In terms of the upcoming season, senior forward Cassidy O’Malley is a player the team will lean on. O’Malley has been the leading scorer for two seasons, last year finishing with 466 points, 182 rebounds and 73 assists. She said she has high hopes about this season and is confident that the group will be able to build off the previous success, even with the losses of last season’s seniors.
“We have a lot of depth and so much talent in so many different positions,” O’Malley said. “It’ll be a huge threat to teams knowing that we have a second lineup that can do just as good a job as the first.”
O’Malley partly credits the team’s aggressive defensive strategy to last year’s wins. She said that defensively, the Bombers try to focus on attacking the pass before the ball can even reach the opponents’ hands, as well as getting into the opponents’ heads to fluster them.
“We need to work on moving the ball and knowing each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” O’Malley said. “Knowing what pass to throw at which player is big because we all like to shoot the ball differently. Having that chemistry will help because we have the individual pieces.”
The team is adding six freshmen to the roster this season. O’Malley also said many of them have already shown competitiveness and grit, and it will only get better once the regular season starts.
As the season approaches, the younger returners are fighting for those starting spots on the team. Sophomore forward Lindsey Albertelli is looking to secure a strong role in the lineup. In her rookie campaign, Albertelli played in 14 games and finished with 18 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists in 84 minutes of play.
Albertelli said all of the off-season and preseason preparation the team has done in the past few months is something that will greatly benefit the team this season.
“We all do what we can in the preseason to prepare,” Albertelli said. “Over the summer, we had a competition with a point system to track what we were doing in the off–season to get ready, and that really helped motivate us to get better before the season.”
In terms of last season, Albertelli said she is very proud of the team’s performance, especially during the playoffs. She said that the Bombers were treated as an underdog by many people and that they exceeded expectations.
“Our NCAA run went very well given that we weren’t ranked in the beginning of the season,” Albertelli said. “I think we went a lot further than people may have expected. It was super fun.”
Raymond said the goal he and Assistant Coach Mary-Kate Tierney have for the season is to establish a culture that enables players to understand the importance of doing things the right way to achieve success without having to use shortcuts.
“This group is hungry to get going, and they know what’s in front of them, and they have a good idea of what we have to do,” Raymond said. “We know that we’re good, but in order to be a great team we have to commit to everything we do and do it at a higher level. They just have to commit to being better.”