Women's basketball opens season with GSC/SSC Challenge

Women's basketball opens season with GSC/SSC Challenge

SAINT LEO, Fla. – The Saint Leo women's basketball team starts its 2016-17 season this weekend as the look to take part in the Gulf South/Sunshine State Conference Challenge on Friday and Saturday afternoon. The Lions will take on Lee University out of Tennessee at 2 p.m. on Friday at Florida Southern, and then they will turn around to take on Shorter University on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m., at home in the Marion Bowman Activities Center.

The 2016-17 season will mark a new adventure for the Lions as Head Coach Anthony Crocitto will embark on his first season at the helm of the Green and Gold.

"We want to get better as a team each and every day," Crocitto said of his philosophy for the team heading into this weekend and the season. "Somehow, someway, we want to do better than the day before.  We are trying to defend better, make more free throws, hit more lay-ups and show the region how hard we play.  I am pleasantly surprised with this group, but I plan to remain cautiously optimistic until we put it all together on the court."

The Lions return 2015-16 SSC Newcomer of the Year and Second Team selection Chelsy Springs. Springs averaged 16.2 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 51.0-percent shooting last season, and was first in the SSC in rebounding, second in points, and third in shooting percentage. She also finished with a conference-best seven double-doubles, and score 20-plus points on nine occasions.

"Chelsy is not a 'me-me player,' and she lets the game come to her," Crocitto stated of his top returner. "She will be a huge part of what we do, but it will come from the way we play and not the way she plays. I believe the product we put around her will lead to her successes. That being said, Chelsy knows I expect a double-double nightly."

Also returning for the Lions are Izabell Skoogh, Asia Royster, Alysia Johnson, Abby Peterson, Gabby Ortiz, Mary Redmond, and Jackie Layng.

Johnson and Peterson join Springs in the forward position, and they are joined by newcomers Ragen Dotson, a junior-college transfer from Dayton State, Nikira Hooks, a junior college transfer from Williston State, and freshman Courtney Cox, from St. Augustine, Fla.

Returning guards include Royster, Skoog, Ortiz, Redmond, and Layng. Redmond and Skoogh went 1-2 in made three-point field goals last season. Redmond averaged 2.1 per game on 36.9-percent shooting, while Skoogh put up 1.3 per game.

Joining in guard play will be freshmen Madelin Lang, Kamryn Kimmel, and Gina Brierley.

"I am thrilled to have such depth at the guard position," Crocitto mentioned of his eight guards. "We can score the ball many ways with many players shooting, driving, and scoring in transition. We will use many players at the three guard positions and expect contributions with whoever gets an opportunity."

"We are not a team made up of superstars, so every single day is a chance for someone else to step up," Crocitto said of his line-up. "We have shooters, drivers, and scorers across the board, so the better defenders will see more playing time. The returners are learning a new system, and there will be an early learning curve, but I am satisfied thus far of the overall buy-in to our program."

The Lions will look to step up to the challenge as they have an aggressive early season following these two opening games as they head to Florida Southern, who is No. 6 in the nation in the preseason poll, on Wednesday, Nov. 16.

"I ask all who follow the Lions this season to be patient," Crocitto remarked as he reflected on the schedule in front of his team. "We are still new and young to Saint Leo and need time to grow. We strive to be better as players and coaches daily but need to show it on the floor. Our schedule early on isn't the easiest, but we believe that these games will prepare us for the long haul. This is a long season thus the analogy, 'not a sprint, but a marathon,' is the perfect fit."

"I think the fans will see a blue collar group that exudes passion and commitment to chasing greatness daily. We will be resilient in our approach to win basketball games day in and day out."

For the latest news, updates, and information on the Saint Leo women's basketball be sure to visit SaintLeoLions.com.  Fans can also stay up-to-date on the latest Lions news by following Saint Leo Athletics on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.