Young core looks to lead Marlins

The Marlins Women’s Basketball team enters the 2017-18 season after finishing the 2016 season 13-13 overall and 8-8 in ODAC play. The Marlins are slotted to finish seventh in the ODAC Coaches’ Preseason Poll. After graduating only two seniors, the team is eager to step back on the floor. The firepower for the Marlins is plentiful. In the backcourt, First Team All-ODAC Guard Jayla Harris returns after averaging 19.7 points per game last season. The squad will also look to NiAsia Caldwell and Amanda Gerni, who both return after averaging double digits in points last season. Five new post players will also join the squad this year, helping to add depth and length to the post position that lacked a season ago.

In preparation for the 2017-18 season the Marlins are motivated by higher expectations.

“I think that last year really drove us to work harder, to put ourselves in a better position to succeed,” senior captain Kellen Phillips said.

Junior Amanda Gerni agreed, “I didn’t like getting picked seventh in the ODAC, but I think it just motivated us to get better, and do the best that we possibly can.”

“They made a commitment to each other, when we talked about our team goals for this year, that everyone make a commitment to get into the gym, and work hard,” said Coach Stephany Dunmyer, who begins her 15th season as head coach for the Marlins.

The women have been much more dedicated to their ten thousand shot club, which is done outside of regular practice time, along with many other individual drills and skill sessions. This hard work has not only improved their skill on the court, but their camaraderie as a team as well. “Our team chemistry, as a whole is better, it’s probably the best it’s been in my four years here, and it’s really exciting to see the potential that we have. We are coming together both on and off the court,” Phillips said.

“Chemistry wise, I think our team is in a really good spot right now, which makes it that much easier to be each other’s biggest fans,” Coach Dunmyer said.

On November 8th, the Marlins were able to put their hard work to the test in a preseason scrimmage against Marymount, who is currently ranked #14 in the country by Juniors Jaelyn Washington and Ceci Billings brought an energy and intensity to the floor, encouraging the Marlins to go on the attack defensively, and repeatedly deny the ball to the post, thus creating fast break opportunities. Though shorter than their opponents, senior Naeemah Morris, and freshman Mak McSweeney were able to repeatedly step in front of passes and knock them away. Offensively, guards Jayla Harris and NiAsia Caldwell were able to get past their defenders and make plays either towards the rim, or for their teammates. Energy was high both on the court and on the sideline. Players chanted and encouraged each other throughout the entire game. The Marlins were able to capitalize on this energy, turning defensive stops into offensive opportunity multiple times during the scrimmage.

“Marymount’s a great team, they were 24-6 last year, they only graduated one player. Going into last night I don’t think we knew truly what to expect,” said Coach Dunmyer, “I’m very pleased with the energy, and commitment we’re bringing defensively, I think it’s been night and day from last year. When you look at the success of teams in our conference, the top four teams, are also the top four defensive teams, there’s days where we will be on, and days where we will be off, but we have to consistently bring energy to the defensive side of the floor,” Dunmyer added.

The Marlins will return to the Jane P. Batten Student Center on Dec. 2 against Apprentice and open the ODAC season at home against Guilford College on Dec. 9. Games are scheduled to tip off at 2 p.m and 4:30 p.m.

Josh Davis