The University of Albany women’s basketball team apparently isn’t afraid of anyone. To open their 2008-09 schedule, the Great Danes first left New York to visit California, the ninth-ranked team in the nation, before facing off with the MAAC preseason favorite, Marist.
Albany will continue its tradition of facing high-profile opponents when it plays the defending Ivy League champs tonight at Newman Arena. After losing 63-39 to California and 74-56 at Marist, the Great Danes (0-2) are still looking for their first win of the season. The Red (0-1) will be trying to avoid the same 0-2 start Albany has had, but this early in the season, a win is almost an added bonus.
“Our main concern right now is to play together and work on improving our team chemistry — not that there’s not chemistry already,” said junior guard Allie Fedorowicz. “We need to focus more on what we need to do — offensive and defensive principals — and establishing what team we’ll be this season is what’s important right now.”
If history repeats itself, Cornell should be able to get its first win of the year. In the four meetings between the two opponents, Cornell has yet to lose to Albany. The last time the two teams squared of was during the 2002-03 season — head coach Dayna Smith’s first year with Cornell. The Red won 57-41 for Smith’s third career win.
Like Cornell, Albany is coming off of its most successful conference performance, having gone 10-6 in the America East Conference last year. While the Red’s 10 conference wins handed it the Ivy championship, the Great Danes finished in fourth place.
A large part of Albany’s success last year came courtesy of the play of guard duo Britney McGee and Janea Aiken, two of Albany’s three returning starters. McGee finished second on the team with 9.1 points and first with 3 assists per game last season, while Aiken finished fourth at 8.3 points per game.
This year, the pair has again set the pace early. McGee leads the team with 4 assists per game while Aiken is the top scorer at 12.5 points a contest. It will be up to the Red to slow down the Danes.
“We just need to get on the same page [on defense],” Fedorowicz said. “We need to show what we can do and what we’ve been working on for the past two months, and put in to good use. We’re going to have to help each other. It will be a very big team effort tonight.”
To counter Albany’s guard-driven offense, Cornell will likely use the same four-guard starting lineup it used in Sunday’s loss to Duquesne. Cornell’s only true forward to start the game will be senior captain and Sun columnist Shannon Scarselletta, still the only woman on Cornell’s roster with a 20-point performance under her belt.
Junior captain and guard Lauren Benson is coming into tonight’s contest as Cornell’s leading scorer for the first time in her career, having led the Red with 11 points in the season opener. It was only the third time Benson led the Red in scoring since coming to Cornell, but will likely happen again without last year’s Ivy League Player of the Year Jeomi Maduka on the roster.
Against Duquesne, the Red also had double-digit scoring from Scarselletta and Fedorowicz. Four players had at least five rebounds, including freshman forward Allie Munson.
“The freshmen have been handling it pretty well and learning what they have to do — what we need them to do for our team to be successful,” Fedorowicz said. “I think they’re doing a good job. They’re stepping into important roles early and it handling very well. We expect a lot as a team, and they’re showing us a lot.”
Munson played twenty minutes in her first career game, while Scarselletta led the team in playing time with 31 minutes. In her first three seasons with the Red, Scarselletta averaged just 21.7 minutes, but with the loss of Meduka and current assistant coach Moina Snyder ’08, Scarselletta and Munson could see significant playing time tonight against the Great Danes. as well as in the rest of the season.