ALBANY — Colleen Mullen admitted that the UAlbany women’s basketball program was in somewhat “uncharted territory” as it opened its Precision Wednesday at her home SEFCU Arena.
This is a good thing.
In the first three seasons of Mullen guiding the Great Dane’s program, Ulbani began each season to find his identity. That ever-changing rebuild was a price to pay for a program that experienced seven consecutive 20-win seasons, a run that saw two coaches—Katie Abrahamson-Henderson and Joanna Bernabei-McNamee—take new jobs, But that left Ulbani’s roster in tough shape when Mullen took power in May 2018.
at that point? Mullen said the rebuilding of the Ulbani program was a three-year project.
Those three seasons are over – and the Great Dane looks set to win.
“It’s great to finally feel that you have players who understand your expectations,” Mullen said after the Great Danes’ first official practice of the 2021-22 campaign.
The UAlbany made four starts from last season, finishing with a losing record for the third consecutive season to the Great Dane, but making it to the America East Conference semifinals for the second time with Mullen as coach. Those four players — Lucia Decortes, Helen Hagerstrand, Alain Hahn and Grace Heaps — started every game last season, and Ulbany brings back five of their top six scorers from last season, along with that quartet and Kayla Cooper.
“There’s a little bit more stability, and security and the understanding that everyone is on the same page,” Mullen said.
There is also a bit more appetite for the Great Danes after the 2020-21 season, which included a variety of pandemic-related stoppages, derailed the UAlbany’s ability to stay on court with no consistency.
“We couldn’t really build that chemistry,” Mullen said.
around this time?
“team chemistry [is] Through the roof compared to last year,” said guard Morgan Honey.
Haney’s return is a source of optimism for the Great Dane as well. With the exception of several games he started as a freshman, knee injuries sidelined Haney throughout his college career. Redshirt sophistication, however, is back on the court, and he practiced on Wednesday without requiring him to wear a knee brace.
Haney is one of several candidates to fill the open starting position at point guard, which Kyra Frames filled for each of Mullen’s first three seasons at Ulbany before transferring to George Washington during the off-season. In addition to Honey, freshman Lily Phillips and Abby Ray – graduates of Cambridge High School and Saratoga Springs High School, respectively – are competing for minutes on the backcourts of Ulbany, as is junior Fatima Lee.
Hagerstrand said it is “hard to say early” how the fight for the team’s open position in the starting lineup will play out, but added that he is not worried about it.
“It’s going to fall into place,” said Hagerstrand, the Great Dane’s top scorer last season. “I’m 100% sure of that.”
“We are deeper than ever,” Mullen said.
And that seems to be the depth of the quality.
“Everyone has a talent we need [for] Our team,” Decortes said.
The player to watch for Uelbani could be freshman Frieja Worth, who is the fourth player from Sweden to play for the Great Dane with Mullen as coach. Werth, a 6-foot-1 girth player with the ability to attack and post up with dribbles, had several strong orders during Wednesday’s practice – and Mullen sees only one problem with his game.
“He’s so selfless,” Mullen said.
The Great Danes will not play against Hofstra until November 10, a game that begins an 11-game non-conference slate to prepare them for America East play.
Mullen said she loves the foundation she built during her team’s off-season workouts, and expects her team to continue to grow throughout the weeks before their first game.
“I’m very excited about this group,” Mullen said.
More from The Daily Gazette:
Categories: college sports sports