SALISBURY, Md. – The Salisbury University women's basketball team welcomes a number of fresh new faces and an exciting and confident new identity into the 2019-20 season set to tip-off on Saturday, November 9 against Muhlenberg College.
The Sea Gulls finished last season with a 17-10 overall record and 8-6 in the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) that led to an eighth-straight CAC playoff appearance.
Salisbury returns six players from last year's squad, three of whom were starters in guards Amber Onyekwere and Kylie Webb, and forward Kaylee Otlowski. Added to those returning are four new freshmen, all of whom have the opportunity to contribute right out of the gate.
With ten players on the roster, eight of whom are sophomore and freshmen, the coaching staff led by head coach Kelly Baskow, will look to implement a playing style that complements the talent.
"We're a smaller squad this year so it's going to be a little different for us," Baskow said. "Not only are we smaller, but we're also younger."
But Coach Baskow doesn't see either as a problem. In fact, she sees plenty of opportunities to build a strong foundation.
"Being younger is also exciting because the players bring plenty of excitement with them. They're all very willing to learn and try new things. Every one of them has a very fresh, positive attitude."
While some may see a younger and less experienced team as a reason to not worry about the present and look only towards the future, that sentiment is not being shared in the locker room or on the court every day at practice.
"The players have high goals for what they hope to accomplish this season. They know what they're up against in this conference and how tough it is. They're excited to take it head-on."
Baskow added "I think more than ever this team is very connected. We have a level playing ground right now and everyone has the ability and the opportunity to contribute."
Four of the six returning players logged significant minutes at the guard position last season. They include starters Onyekwere and Webb, as well as two top options off the bench in sophomores Jada Welbon and Lauren Fortescue.
"As the only junior, Amber has the most experience at the position. To see her grow into one of the leaders on this team, being more vocal on the court, it's exciting."
Adding a few new freshmen into the mix will provide some depth at the position as well.
"Our freshman guards are going to help add some needed depth to the position. But I also think we're going to be a better outside shooting team now than we have been in the past. It should really help us open things up offensively."
Baskow was also excited to mention how quick her guards are.
"That quickness is going to allow us to be even more aggressive by adding more ball pressure on the defensive end."
The forward position is headlined by returning players Otlowski and junior Courtney Brigham. Coach Baskow expects each of them to lead the unit and set the tone all season.
"As a freshman, Kaylee really came on strong, had a great season, and grew a lot as the year progressed. She's been working on and adding a lot of new elements to her game. She's going stronger to the basket, has added range to her shot. She's going to be tough to guard."
"Courtney is our grit on the team. She's a little undersized for a forward but she's got a huge heart and isn't afraid to go against anyone."
The only other true forward currently listed on the roster is incoming freshman Emily Dilger, whom Coach Baskow seems especially excited about heading into the start of the season.
"Emily offers a ton of upside for us. She's super athletic for her size and has been putting in a ton of work which is really going to help make them a strong unit together."
The Sea Gulls won't look to pad the wins column early in the season either. They will test themselves early against two teams who made deep runs in last year's NCAA tournament in No. 13 DeSales on November 16 and No. 3 Scranton on December 19.
"We always play a tough schedule. We never shy away from it because we feel that playing the best is only going to make us better and prepare us for a tough conference schedule."
The tough schedule doesn't subside once conference play begins after the new year, which includes two matchups against CAC rival No. 15 Christopher Newport – one at home on January 25 and another on the road on February 15.
The team will open the season with a tough test against Muhlenberg College at home on Saturday afternoon, a program that has reached the NCAA tournament many times under long-time head coach Ron Rohn. The game is set to tip-off at 2 p.m. at Maggs Gym.