Season Preview: Stakes higher in Lehigh’s journey to repeat as champions

Through Josh liddick, Lehigh Sports Communications

Winning championships takes dedication, persistence and a little luck. Rehearsing as a champion takes on all of these traits and more. Lehigh’s women’s basketball team is about to do so.

The Mountain Hawks clinched their fourth league title in March in a race full of resilience and dominance throughout the final stretch.

Led by Head Coach Sue troyan In his 27th season as head coach, Lehigh is set to come back together in 2021-2022 with a returning core that includes four members from last year’s starting lineup and a bench that will look to make an impact from the very first game of the season.

The last month of training and pre-season scrum has been extremely productive for a program packed with talent and potential. Working hard and sticking to the game plan takes dedication and a very special mindset, one the Mountain Hawks continue to have.

“We’ve talked a lot about the importance of focusing on the process and the people, enabling these areas to drive results,” said the head coach. Sue troyan. “Our process is to continually improve and use each day as an opportunity to learn, grow and improve. The human part is playing together, trusting each other and having a good mindset. team in everything we do. We have a lot of talent in this team and a lot of depth in what we do. In order for us to be our best, it will be important to use the strengths of each player with the will to ‘assume their role in the program. “

The Mountain Hawks open the regular season Tuesday against East Stroudsburg, the first of 11 non-league games this season. In 2020-21, Lehigh did not have the opportunity to compete with non-league opponents due to the start of the season in January, but the team prevailed and won a Patriot League title anyway. This year, the non-league part of the campaign is back, giving the team the preparation needed to compete at the highest level starting in January.

“We look forward to playing a strong non-conference schedule that will prepare us well for our conference game in January,” said Troyan. “Having the opportunity to play against quality opponents from the Big East (Villanova, Seton Hall), SEC (Missouri) and Atlantic 10 (George Washington) will prepare our team well for the rigors and competitiveness of the game. championship.

“Given a team with nine underclassmen, this is also an important opportunity that we did not have last year to develop our rotation and see a number of different players in different contexts before the start of the league.”

Last season it took real team leadership to win a championship. Two of these key leaders – Marie Clougherty and Mariah Sex – are gone. However, others have multiplied in the form of seniors Emma Grothaus and junior Frannie hottinger, appointed team captains by their peers. The duo will seek to guide their teammates to the Promised Land, much like the team did the year before.

“Last year’s team had exceptional leadership and strong resilience and a willingness to overcome the many challenges and obstacles we have faced with COVID and personal loss,” said Troyan. “I firmly believe that a critical part of championship programs is strong leadership. When that leadership comes from your elders, it is all the more powerful.

“We have a strong core of seniors in our program this year who will provide important leadership to our program. We also have a strong core of returning people who know how to face adversity with courage, tenacity and perseverance. All of these character-defining elements will be essential to defend our championship in what is always a long season. “

Guard play has always been a long-standing tradition of Lehigh’s women’s basketball experience and this year is no different. The Mountain Hawks have a stable of guards ready and willing to take the next step and compete from the start.

Lehigh’s two starting goaltenders from a season ago are back with the squad, as Clair Steele and Megan Walker each starts their senior season. Steele led the Patriot League in assists per game (4.4) a season ago and Walker is continually a threat to convert from beyond the arc, despite a slightly declining junior year.

In addition to the two starters for 2020-21, the second Mackenzie kramer is back after a promising freshman campaign where she was one of five members of the Patriot League’s All-Rookie team. Kramer averaged 8.7 points per game and shot 36.2% from the field.

Junior Anna harvey and second Fabienne Eggenschwiler homecoming, joined by freshmen Ella Stemmer and Kaylee van eps.

We have a strong core of playmakers in Clair and Anna, both of whom will play important leadership roles on the team as playmakers in guiding the pace of play on offense, ”said Troyan. “We’ve got a ton of depth at the shooting guard and wing positions that will result in strong rotations and pace of play. Mackenzie, Megan, Ella and Fab have all proven to be three-point shooters with no light. with quick triggers and range with their perimeter fire capabilities. “

There are three players on the roster who double as guards and forwards, known as the “winged” player for the Mountain Hawks and Juniors. Frannie hottinger, second year Maddie albrecht and Kaylee van eps will be those players for Lehigh this coming season, all looking to make a huge impact. Hottinger is notable in that she was named in the Patriots League Second Team selection as Lehigh’s top scorer last year and won the Patriots League preseason laurels this past year. year.

“Frannie, Maddie and Kaylee played hard in the wing position and give us versatility with wings that can play around the perimeter, score around the rim, rebound well and defend with length.

“Frannie’s development continues to impress our staff and it’s certainly evident that she spent a lot of time during the offseason developing her game and her body. Mackenzie is another player who took her game to the next level while spending a lot of time in the gym during the offseason. I am delighted to see them both reap the rewards for their hard work. “

The forward was a position the Mountain Hawks lacked depth a season ago, but which still paid dividends with the production of both. Mariah Sex and Emma Grothaus, as well as the emergence of Jamie Béhar late in the season.

This year, the Mountain Hawks reclaim Grothaus and Behar for another year with the influx of second-year attackers / crosses Jackie Vargas-Bines (who retired from the 2020-21 season) and freshman Meghan o’brien.

Depth will certainly play a big role in the growth of this team from the very first game, especially with the combination of the previously mentioned wings in the fold. The Mountain Hawks appeared to be locked and loaded into the post.

“We have quality depth in the attacking positions this year, which will translate into a solid core in our position rotations and efficiency in their game,” said Troyan. “Our pre-season schedule was important to the development of this group as most are sub-classes with limited playing experience.

“Frannie, Jamie and Maggie Brown have had strong preseason and have shown versatility with their ability to score inside and outside and switch from front to wing. Emma, ​​Jackie and Meghan will provide length, athleticism and versatility to our post rotations with their abilities to impact both sides of the floor. Emma is an exceptional role model and leader to emulate for our younger positions. “

Grothaus had a tremendous career at Lehigh over three seasons and crowned her in the spring as the Patriot League Tournament MVP. She averaged nearly a double-double in the playoffs and finished the season third scoring (11.3 points per game) and led the team on the rebound (6.8 laps per minute). She currently holds 636 career points and 406 career rebounds with a good chance of joining the 500-rebound club by the end of the season.

Only three freshmen make up the 14 spots in the Mountain Hawks’ roster this season, as Stemmer, Van Eps and O’Brien all bring various traits and talents to a very experienced roster. All three have had huge careers in high school and AAU across the country and carry on the long line of talented, high IQ players that the team has recruited in recent times.

“Our three freshmen will be contributing to our rotations this year,” said Troyan. “They adapt well to our systems and play at the college level, they have a great opportunity to learn from a talented group of upper class students to lead the way.”

With nine other teams looking to compete for the championships this season, the margin for error is slim when trying to be successful for the season ahead. Four Patriot League programs (Army West Point, Boston U., Colgate and Loyola Maryland) have new head coaches, making it even more important to stay the course and look for ways to grow as a team throughout of the season. But one thing is certain, fans of the Stabler Arena are going to be in for a treat.

“I think it’s important to stay focused on each day and make daily improvements to what we do,” Troyan said. “Trusting and focusing on the process and the people will be very important throughout the season and take every opportunity to improve ourselves so that we play our best basketball in March when the tournament begins.

“Our game is that we love to share the ball and shoot it, so it’s a fun, fast-paced, and selfless style of play that will involve a lot of players and be fun for the spectators to watch.”

The Mountain Hawks will kick off the regular season on Tuesday, Nov. 9 at 7:30 p.m. against East Stroudsburg at Grace Hall for Throwback Night presented by the Masters of Management program at Lehigh University’s College of Business. The game will also stream live on ESPN + (subscription required). Lehigh returns to Stabler Arena on Friday, November 12 at 7 p.m. to host Saint Peter’s, also on ESPN +.

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