Vassar basketball set to tip off new season

The 2017-2018 Vassar women’s basketball team poses at the AFC’s newly designed center court. The Brewers return all starters from last year while also adding three newcomers. / Courtesy of Claire Mattox

The men’s and women’s basketball teams are getting ready for what should be yet another successful season.

The men’s team has less than a week before they kick off the start of their games. The team will be traveling down to Memphis, TN, to face up against Rhodes College and Johns Hopkins University.

Last season, the Brewers went 6-19 and 2-14 in conference. However, they are coming back with more firepower this season, having brought in four talented first-years as well as returning their top three scorers. Because of this, Vassar was picked to finish fifth in the preseason coaches poll, ahead of Ithaca, RIT, Union, Clarkson and Bard.

This past Saturday, the Brewers got one last chance at real game exposure with a scrimmage against New York University before they officially start their season on Nov. 18. Junior center captain Steve Palecki commented on the overall performance of the team, saying “The teamed performed well yesterday against NYU. I thought our team ran the floor well, pushing the pace at the right moments, and also executed our offensive sets at a higher percentage than our first scrimmage,” he mentioned.

However, heading into their opening weekend, Palecki said the team will be working on a few things. “One thing we could continue to focus on is our communication on defense, as communication is the backbone of any good team.”

After about a month of preseason, Palecki is feeling good about the way the season is shaping up. “The team is looking great as we head into our last week before our first official game,” he said. “Guys have been competing hard in practice and developing at a fast pace. I am really excited for what this season holds for us as everyone is on the same page in the organization from top to bottom about our goals and how to achieve them.”

Palecki explained that the main goal of the team this season is to make it to the Liberty League championship, and he plans on using his role as captain to help the team make that goal a reality.

“I hope to help our team achieve this by continually bringing guys together, strengthening our bond, making us a better team and also by pushing my teammates to get better everyday,” he noted.

The Brewers have a tough season ahead of them, but with all the work they have put in during the offseason and in preseason, they are bound to find success.

Similar to the men’s team, the women’s team is feeling confident heading into the start of the games. Coming off a 12-13 season and going 9-7 in conference, the Brewers are gearing up for what should be an even better season than last year. Returning nearly everybody that was on the team last year, the Brewers were picked to finish fourth in the preseason poll, ahead of William Smith, Clarkson, St. Lawrence, Union, RPI and Bard.

Sophomore Hunter Gettings squares up a three-pointer in a home game last season. Gettings is primed to be a strong contributor off the bench for a Brewer team picked fifth in the league. / Courtesy of Carlisle Stockton

Senior guard captain Ariella Rosenthal thinks the team looks great and attributes their strong preseason to all the work the team puts in during the offseason. Additionally, bringing back so many players has been beneficial for them. “We have almost everyone returning from our roster from last year, which has really helped with our cohesiveness on the floor,” Rosenthal commented. “People put in a lot of work this offseason, and it was really evident when we started practice. I am really confident in the potential we have for this year and I am excited to end my college career with this team.”

One major part of this offseason work is the team’s hard work and dedication in the weight room. Strength and Conditioning Coach David Young has geared lifts and workouts specifically to benefit each team. Junior Nicole Teta, who was one of the top three scorers last year, explained the benefits of the team going to lift every week. “At lifts, Coach Young has put a huge emphasis on explosiveness, speed and balance drills to prepare us for what we might expect during games,” she explained.

Vassar’s women’s team has had two scrim- mages so far, against Mitchell College and Manhattanville College, and Rosenthal is happy with the way the team matched up against two very talented teams.

“Our two scrimmages were really great learn- ing opportunities for us. We played two very athletic teams who applied a lot of ball pressure and were constantly up in your face, which was great for us in terms of having to execute our offense and take care of the ball,” she explained.

The scrimmages exposed areas that the team needs to improve and focus on in practice. In the first scrimmage, turning the ball over was a big issue. However, with a full week of practice in between scrimmages, the team was able to address the issue, and turnovers were much less prevalent in the second scrimmage. Rosenthal commented on the quick improvement, noting, “It was great to see how malleable we are and that we were growing even over a week of practice.”

Not only did the scrimmages show what the team needs to focus on prior to starting their season, it also highlighted the strengths that the team displays. “We moved the ball very well as a team and were looking for the extra pass. We executed our offense well and didn’t robotically go run them. We were able to read the defense and look for the different options that are created by the plays,” Rosenthal noted.

Like the men’s team, the women’s squad is looking for a chance to compete for a Liberty League championship. As a second-year captain, Rosenthal is devoted to helping the team reach this goal. As she explained, “As a leader on the team my role is to keep everyone focused on achieving those goals and to ensure that we are enjoying ourselves in the process.”

Rosenthal wants to ensure the team is not only focused and serious in the gym, but also wants the team to always remember why they play. “We place a high emphasis on getting things done when we are in the gym and taking advantage of the time we have, but I think one of the most important things to remember with that is to have fun while we do it,” she commented. “It’s really easy to start seeing practice or extra work as a chore when you’re dedicating so many hours and investing into something you love, but keeping the fun with it and enjoying the process is key to reach the goals we have, especially in a season as long as ours.”

This mentality helps keep the team focused on more than just playing to win, but also play- ing for the love of the game. This mentality also helps foster a certain comradery among the team, which is something that can be hugely beneficial in practices and games. Teta explained how the team dynamic is a positive force for the women’s basketball team. “The team dynamic is that everyone must bring high energy, engage in healthy competition, push each other to our limits and beyond, stay positive and always be motivated to compete. When we are able to accomplish these things during practices, we end up having a lot of fun while getting the job done,” she noted.

The women have their first game Wednesday- day, Nov. 15, at William Paterson University in Wayne, NJ, and then will compete in the Vassar Tip-Off Tournament this upcoming weekend, where the Brewers will face up against Sim- mons College in the first round.

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