ALBANY — Opening Night at the SEFCU Arena presents an important test as well as a great opportunity for the UAlbany women’s basketball program.
The Test: Visiting Hofstra, who makes all five starts with a team that beat the Great Danes 63-45 last season on Long Island.
Opportunity: An opportunity to showcase the superior depth and talent that head coach Colleen Mullen’s team hopes to display on the court this season.
“Everybody can defend. Everyone can score. We’re a threat everywhere,” Ulbany junior Helen Hagerstrand said of her team on Monday, two days before the Great Danes’ season-opening matchup Wednesday evening 7 o’clock.
Entering his fourth season at Ulbani, Mullen expressed repeatedly during the preseason that depth and versatility would be top strengths for this season’s Great Dane. In his first three seasons leading the program, UAlbany regularly relied on his starters for key minutes out of necessity, and Mullen is optimistic that this season’s roster includes more contributors – but it also means that Coaches have more difficult decisions to make in terms of lineups and a game rotation.
“It’s a good problem,” Mullen said. “We haven’t had that problem since we moved here.”
On Monday, Mullen joked that she was “taking recommendations” on her team’s starting lineup. While the Great Danes made four starts – Lucia Decortes, Hagerstrand, Alain Hahn and Grace Heaps – it would be no shock if Mullen opted to bring one of them off the bench this season. Meanwhile, what began as a three-player contest between redshirt sophistication Morgan Honey, junior Fatima Lee and freshman Lily Phillips to start at point guard has seemingly turned into a matchup between Honey and Phillips. – A former Cambridge High School star – because of practice time. Lee has missed recent weeks due to injury.
However, UAlbany had a total of 13 players available for practice on Monday.
“So we’re guessing everyone is available for Wednesday,” Mullen said.
UAlbany finished last season 7-11 and advanced to the semi-finals of the America East playoffs. The Great Dane was chosen to finish fifth in this year’s Conference Precision Poll.
Hofstra was 8-12 last season and finished fifth in the CAA President’s Poll.
After playing in front of empty crowds last season due to restrictions related to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Hagerstrand said the Great Danes are thrilled to have the chance to play in front of home fans in their season-opening game.
“So excited. It was definitely weird not to be there [last season], We got used to it, but it’s going to feel like a lot [more] For local people to have fun with their friends and family, [in the building], It’s going to be a huge difference.”
Hagerstrand is one of three Swedish players from Ulbani. Meanwhile, three players – Heaps, Phillips and Abbey Ray – are the former Volume II standouts.
“There will certainly be a lot of people from Cambridge,” Phillips said of the crowd at the SEFCU Arena on Wednesday.
Whether he starts or comes off the bench, Phillips is likely to play crucial minutes in his first college game.
“It certainly comes with nerves, but I’m so excited to be out there, have my family come over and watch because they live so close,” Phillips said. “I’m so excited.”
What’s most excited for UAlbany’s season-opening game, though?
The difference probably belongs to Haney, who missed almost all of the last two seasons due to knee injuries. He started the first seven games of his true freshman season, then missed the rest of that campaign and the 2020-21 season.
“I think my excitement is probably through the roof, but I have to calm myself,” Haney said. “I want to make sure I’m not too excited because I really want to be able to perform.”
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