The women’s basketball team is looking to improve on last season’s 11-15 overall and 3-11 Ivy records. There are key reasons this year why that improvement looks imminent.
The biggest problem for the Red last year was depth. In most of its games, the team relied on five or six players to eat a majority of the minutes on the clock. When sophomore guards Breean Walas and Do Stevens, who essentially ran the Cornell offense, went down with nagging injuries, the team was disoriented. The absence of the backcourt duo essentially crippled the club in the first half of play late in the season, which contributed to the Red’s less-than-stellar conference mark.
But what depth and experience the Red lacked in the backcourt last season, it more than makes up for in the frontcourt this year.
Cornell’s shot blockers will be led by Jennifer Linker. A four-time letter winner, Linker has proved invaluable in the frontcourt as she paced the team with 24 blocks last year. She also was second on the team with 33 steals. Besides contributing on defense, Linker put up a .381 three-point field goal percentage, which put her second on the team and allows her freedom to move outside to get open for the long shot. As a freshman, Linker was named to the Ivy League’s All-Rookie first team and contributed in all 26 games that year.
Senior forward Sandy Martisauskas is also reliable as she grabbed 38 rebounds in her junior campaign. She will prove indispensable as a vocal and off-the-court leader.
Junior Melissa Koch played last season off the bench. At 6’2″, she is the tallest forward on the team and can be matched up with and shut down bigger challengers. She will look for more playing time this year with the departure of forward Kristie Riccio and center Jumana Salti. Koch is a heads-up player with an astute passing ability, as she did not turn the ball over once in 94 minutes of court time last season.
The sophomore class returns after a solid rookie season. With experience, these three women will find more time in games and more pressure to perform. That should not prove difficult for them, however, as each averaged over 10 minutes in the paint per game.
Lynell Davis leads the group averaging 3.8 rebounds per game, having pulled down 98 total. She was second behind Linker with 22 blocks, but also contributed offensively by way of a .453 field goal percentage. Davis adds height to this relatively short squad and will contribute off the bench when the Red cannot prevent the inside shot.
Ify Ossai, another second-year up and comer, makes up for her stature with aggressiveness and speed. She returns off a solid season, but will no doubt improve with more minutes. She spent time during the off-season putting on muscle, so expect to see her box out even the tallest opponents. Ossai also has a nice arc on her three-pointer and can bust out to take that open shot.
Katie Romey is the third member of the class of ’03, and she is by no means at the short end of the stick. Romey averaged 19 minutes a game last season, snatched 72 rebounds, and was a threat at the line with a .750 free throw average. She contributed from the field by sinking .396 percent of her jumpers. If she is stuck outside with the shot clock winding down, Romey will not hesitate to take the three. She is a versatile athlete able to effectively play any position when needed.
Cornell will showcase two rookies this year who come in with stacked resumes. Daniella Aretino and Tanya Karcic both enter the Red’s line-up after being named honorable mention All-Americans.
Cornell hopes Aretino can leave the same mark on the Red squad as she left on her high school. She owns the school record for rebounds per season (336) and in a career (801). She is a high jumper and her rebounding skill will give the Red a potent weapon off the bench.
Karcic will also grab her share of minutes. She is a 6’1″ post player that also provides an offensive boost with a quick shot from under the basket.
Linker summarized the defensive players’ goals.
“One of the most important things in basketball is to have an inside-out game, so that no team can shut you down by just playing the inside or outside,” she said. “Being dominant enough so that every team has to respect us and what we do is also a goal. Rebounding is a key for us both offensively and defensively.
“We have nine underclassmen, so they are a huge part of the team, especially in the frontcourt,” Linker commented, adding, “The freshmen definitely add a lot because they are very athletic. They are great jumpers and are rebounding tremendously, so they add a great dimension.”
“Our goal is to play defense, and just to play solid basketball,” Aretino said. “We have a lot of strong forwards and we want to contribute.”
The team will be deep this year, according to head coach Marnie Dacko. All of the starting positions are still up for grabs, and while some forwards will emerge as regulars, Dacko will always have willing and more than able subs on the bench ready to fill in.
doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. This phrase appropriately describes last year’s Ivy season. While the Red struggled to effectively work together in the opening 20 minutes of last year’s games, the second half featured a Cornell squad of a different sort.
Of its 14 Ivy clashes last year, in only three was the Red defeated by more than 12 points. Two of these lop-sided defeats came against a Dartmouth squad that went on to take its third consecutive league crown. In the rest of the matches, the Red was not blown out thanks in large part to its play in the second half. Despite trailing at the intermission in most of those games, the Red did not fall apart after the break. Cornell fought along with and threatened its opponents to keep itself in contention.
The Red’s ability to stay close to the Ivy teams last year will pay off this year through experience and confidence in each other.
“A huge part of our goal this year is finishing,” senior forward Jennifer Linker commented. “We were in every game last year, so it was extremely frustrating not being good enough to finish those games. That is key this year. Playing all 40 minutes and putting a win in the win column. We were definitely a good team last year, but we just were not winning games.”
Another factor hampering the Red’s play last year was speed. The team could not get back to defend its goal and stop the fast break. This year’s rookies should adequately fill that Achilles’ heel with quickness and agility.
Archived article by Katherine Granish