Preview: STAC Women's Basketball Embarks on ECC Championship Defense

Preview: STAC Women's Basketball Embarks on ECC Championship Defense

The St. Thomas Aquinas College women's basketball team enters the 2018-19 season seeking to defend its first ever East Coast Conference Women's Basketball championship of a season ago.

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In a memorable 2017-18 season, the Lady Spartans reeled off a dominant 27-5 record, including a 16-2 mark in ECC action. They carried the #2 seed into the conference tournament, where they defeated host Roberts Wesleyan College in the semi-finals before topping NYIT to capture the program's first-ever ECC Championship. With that came STAC's first trip to the NCAA Division II Tournament, entering as East Regional as the #4 seed. They captured an impressive 61-45 win over #5 Caldwell in the opener, then put up a fierce battle in a 63-52 semi-final loss to eventual regional champ Stonehill.

For the first time in five seasons, STAC will look for success without the stabilizing influence of point guard Jenna Erickson (16.9 ppg), the ECC Player of the Year, and the rebounding prowess of Defensive Player of the Year Adiya Henderson (10.3 ppg, 7.0 rpg). Though only three seniors departed from last season's squad, all three - including Alex Bertolino (9.1 ppg) - comprised the top three scorers from a year ago.

Still, an amazing total of 11 returnees will certainly benefit from that run and provide the depth and experience that will be crucial if the Lady Spartans are to successfully defend. Capping that group are senior guards Julia Winnik (7.3 ppg), and Chelsea Murphy. Redshirt junior Ruth Adams and redshirt sophomore Kellyann Averill will return from season-ending injuries a year ago, with Missy Sadler and Emily Preston expected to log key minutes for Met Basketball Writers Coach of the Year Kim Lusk, who is entering her 11th season at the helm.

Other returnees include Madison Amalia, Zaria Thomas, Skye Burris, Georgia Smith, and Jill Lynch, while newcomers include Junior Jaida Washington, and an impressive freshman class that features Chanel Brodeur-Muir, Alexa Huertas, Sarah Scerbak, Stefania Georgiou and Victoria Kurisko.

The Lady Spartans open the 2018-19 season as hosts of the annual STAC Tip-off Classic, facing nearby rival Nyack on Friday, November 9 at 5:00 pm, and St. Michael's on Saturday, November 10 at 3:00. Schedule highlights include a trip to Hawaii for a pair of contests on November 16 and 20, an NCAA Tournament rematch against Caldwell, and the usual tough slate of ECC opponents which includes the likes of LIU Post, Roberts Wesleyan, and NYIT.