Women’s Basketball Names Heather Vulin Head Coach

Press, faculty, student athletes and alumni filled the basketball court in Draddy Gymnasium for a press conference on Friday. The Manhattan community welcomed Heather Vulin as the new women’s basketball head coach.

It was the second press conference for the athletic department in a month after introducing Marianne Reilly as the new athletic director on March 31. It took Reilly less than 30 days to get her first hire.

“It feels great to have gone through the process and all the candidates,” Reilly said. “It’s a sense of relief that it’s behind it us.”

Vulin comes to Manhattan with 16 years of coaching experience, spending 12 of those years as a recruiting coordinator. She has 14 winning seasons and has coached in the NEC, the Big East and the ACC. Her most recent accomplishment was helping Virginia Tech earn a visit to the WNIT.   

Reilly Announces Vulin Press Conference.jpg

“It’s a dream come true,” Vulin said of coming to Manhattan. “I wanted to be a head coach my whole life but to be at a Catholic institution is something that’s always been very important to me. I’ve spent 15 years of my career at Catholic institutions so I’m really excited for it. It really offers everything that I am looking for and I feel like it is a place where I’ll thrive.”

The announcement that Vulin was named Manhattan’s head coach came just last week, but she has already hit the ground running to prep for the new season.

“She’s already reached out to players that she’s been recruiting at her other institutions,” Reilly said. “She has an official visit set for next week. She’s looking at some transfers. She’ll decide if she wants to keep the staff that is already here or if she wants to hire new assistants.”

Vulin said in the press conference that she is honored to be Reilly’s first hire and that she is excited to work with someone who is so passionate. She turned to Reilly and said, “So far I’m the best hire you’ve had and I plan to keep it that way.”

Several basketball players, both men and women, were in attendance to welcome Vulin to the program. The women players looked on, observing their new coach and eager to start working with her.

“We’re really excited,” Amani Tatum, a guard for the women’s basketball team said. “A lot of people say that change is good and I think that this is what the program needed; someone like her who is excited and committed. We’re looking forward to it. We’re excited for what she is going to do.”

Reilly noted in the press conference that one of the several aspects that set Vulin apart from the other candidates was understanding the balance of academics and athletics at the Division I level. She said that Vulin is invested in Manhattan’s student athletes both now and in the future.

“I think she is going to hold people accountable,” Tatum said. “She’s going to have people working harder than they usually are, just bring a lot of energy and excitement to the program.”   

Vulin’s previous experience includes six years at Sacred Heart, helping the team earn their first NCAA Tournament berth and overseeing recruitment that led to another NCAA appearance.

Then, she spent another six years as Villanova’s recruiting coordinator. She played a key part in the program advancing to two NCAA Tournaments and three WNIT appearances.

“I expect to win,” Vulin said. “I feel like I do things the right way. I’m committed to it, I work for it and I’m not afraid to go after it. I feel like my leadership will make an impact. I’m really excited for the opportunity.”

Now, she is vowing to bring that success to Manhattan. She plans to be a resource on the court and in the community. She wants Jasper athletics to be on the map across the country.

‘I’m very fortunate,” Vulin said. “A lot of times when you take over a job it’s because maybe there isn’t much talent there. But obviously we have our three returning scorers, we have Amani [Tatum] who’s defensive player of the year and Kayla [Grimme] had tremendous blocks this season. I would like to bring in some more players this year to give us some more depth.”

Tatum said that Vulin has already started working with the team. One thing that has stood out to her so far is that Vulin encouraged her new players to not dwell on the past and that they are all starting a new chapter together.

“I’m really big about once you know what you want, you can go after it,” Vulin said. “But if you are just focused on things in the past and you use that as a crutch then you can’t go forward, and the team can’t go forward.”

Vulin stressed the fact that this is a new chapter for the team and she plans to spend as much time with her players as she can in the last two weeks before summer break.

“I really feel that we have a great group and I can’t wait to get on the court with them,” she said.

Women’s Basketball Names Heather Vulin Head Coach

Women’s Basketball Drops Last Game, Will be 5th or 6th Seed

IMG_5775

With a fourth seed spot on the line going into the conference tournament, Manhattan’s women’s basketball team came up short in their senior day matchup against Rider. The Jaspers fell 56-49 to the Broncs, who are just 5-15 in the MAAC.

Manhattan’s finishing record is 14-15 overall and 11-9 in the MAAC, their first winning record for the first time since 2011-2012. They clinched on Feb. 26 in their 60-43 victory over Saint Peter’s.

Before the game, Manhattan honored their five seniors Crystal Ross, Blake Underhill, Shayna Ericksen, Jacqui Thompson and Kylla Champagne. Head coach John Olenowski called them the “leadership class” as they brought a combined 400 games of collegiate experience into the 2015-2016 season. They are the largest senior class he has had in his seven seasons at Manhattan.

“We didn’t give up; we fought back,” Olenowski said after the loss. “We really tried hard to come back. We didn’t give up. We didn’t pack it in. We really came after them to try and get the win.”

Manhattan started out ahead with a layup from Ross before Rider quickly took the lead. The Jaspers got the lead back and ran with it to finish the first period up 12-8. Ross led with five points in her seven minutes played.

“I think at the start of the game we were a little bit sluggish,” Olenowski said. “I think [Rider] really capitalized on that and got the early lead. We were playing catch up it seemed like the whole game. We needed to have a better start and we needed to have more energy the entire game. So the slow start hurt us and unfortunately we couldn’t catch up later on.”

Manhattan bounced back in the second half with 18 points in the third period. Ross and Tatum led the Jaspers with seven points each in the third. Both Ross and Champagne had three rebounds. In the fourth period, Champagne led with three offensive rebounds and eight overall. Ross notched seven total defensive rebounds to lead the team. Both Champagne and Underhill played a team-high 34 minutes each and Tatum was third with 32 minutes.

Olenowski noted some positives to take from the loss, including Ross and Amani Tatum’s strong showings. Ross led the team with 14 points and 13 rebounds. Tatum had 11 points and four steals in the second half after being scoreless in the first.

Looking toward the upcoming tournament, the Jaspers can secure a first-round bye as the fifth seed if Monmouth loses to Saint Peter’s and will face Fairfield in the quarterfinals on Saturday March 5. If Monmouth wins against Saint Peter’s, however, the Jaspers will fall to the sixth seed and have to play a first-round game against Saint Peter’s on Thursday March 3.

“We have been preparing for the MAACs all year round,” Olenowski said.” We always have a one game at a time situation. So, I think that we’ll just keep going and realize that the next game we play is the biggest game that we play. We’ll keep it as a one game at a time season.”

According to NCAA statistics as of Feb. 26, Manhattan ranks among the top 20 Division I programs nationally in three categories. They stand at 15th place with 10.8 steals per game and 18th with 291 total steals on the season. They are 20th in turnovers forced with 20.37.

They also stand at 48th in the country with 4.7 blocks per game, 49th in blocks overall with 127 and 51st with a turnover margin of +3.11. Tatum is fourth nationally in steals and fifth in steals per game (91 and 3.37). Kayla Grimme ranks 29th in blocks with 65 and 32nd in blocks per game with 2.41.

 

Women’s Basketball Looks for a Strong Regular Season Finish

bb.png

After finishing last season with only three wins overall, Manhattan’s women’s basketball team is just two games out of third place in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference this season.

With under two weeks remaining until the conference tournament, the Jaspers are currently in fifth place. Head coach John Olenowski said that they want to improve to at least fourth place.

“It feels tremendous,” Olenowski said. “Last year was a struggle and to be in the upper echelon of the conference is what our goal was all season long. We are so happy that we are close to that goal.”

Last season, the team was in last place with a 3-27 overall record. They are currently 9-7 in the MAAC and 12-13 overall. They are coming off of a two-point loss to Canisius, just missing their final shot at the buzzer.

“Compared to last season, our team chemistry is much better,” guard Jacqui Thompson said. “We all have the common goal of getting to the championship, getting a bye the first round. I think everyone’s mindset is way different than last year.”

Differences between this season and last season are more depth and chemistry among the team as well as more player experience. Olenowski has emphasized defense for his team and it has shown significantly this season. With that comes more team and individual success.

Amani Tatum averages a team-best 11.6 points per game and leads the conference with 3.2 steals. Center, Kayla Grimme has 61 blocks on the season so far, equaling the second-highest total in program history for a single season. She averages 2.5 per game, which is the second-best in the conference. Shayna Ericksen and Blake Underhill average 7.5 and 6.5 points per game, respectively.   

“I think individual goals are great,” Olenowski said, “because we all kind of share them. Everyone is really happy for every player. So it’s a really positive thing that individual goals are being celebrated by the whole team.”

“Certainly, we feel that we can do very well in the conference tournament,” he continued. “So we are hoping we have a good shot to win it and get into the postseason tournament.”

Manhattan’s shot at winning the tournament might be aided by its place in the standings by the end of the season. One aspect to look at for the Jaspers is the rest of their regular season schedule. They have the easiest schedule remaining in the MAAC. After facing second-place Quinnipiac on Feb. 26, the Jaspers will finish the year with games against ninth-place Rider and 11th-place Saint Peter’s. Despite this, they are not taking anyone lightly.

“We got the hard games over with, sort of,” Thompson said, “but every team in this conference has been really up and down. Any night anybody can win. So yeah we have the lower-placed teams left but we have to take everyone like they are the first-place team.”

For Olenowski, Manhattan’s tough schedule to start the season has made his team battle-tested.

“Every game is a key one but certainly we have played all the top teams so far,” Olenowski agreed. “We are hoping that is going to be an advantage but we do realize that every game is a big game and we have to be prepared for it.”

The Jaspers have a tight finish to the regular season, with their last five games being over a 10-day period. They started the busy stretch in Western New York against Canisius and Niagara. They finish with two home games and a trip to Jersey City.

“We want to try and take it one game at a time,” Grimme said. “We’re in fifth place, only two spots from being in third so it’s a little easier to look at it in small steps.”

While the team is focused on the regular season and the next game ahead, they have a set goal on really making a run at the conference tournament, which starts March 3 in Albany, N.Y.

“We all talk and believe that we can win the tournament,” Thompson said, “so I think that’s our goal. We are going to take every game one step at a time but when we are in the tournament, our goal is to play the best basketball we’ve played all year.”

Women’s Basketball Starts MAAC Play with a Win

Coming off of a game with a poor offensive showing against Yale, the Jaspers bounced back with an 80-62 victory over Niagara to start MAAC play on Friday night. With the win, the team improved to 3-4 on the season.

This was the fourth time in five seasons and the fifth in John Olenowski’s seven years as head coach that the Jaspers won their conference opener.

“It was a big goal of ours,” Olenowski said of starting conference play with a win. “It’s always important to get that win.”

Niagara notched an early 5-2 advantage but a jumper by Kayla Grimme and a Taylor Williams three-pointer put the Jaspers on top 7-5. The Purple Eagles took the lead back briefly until Williams responded with another three-pointer. The Jaspers regained the lead and never looked back.

“It was really good to start conference play with a win,” Shayna Ericksen said. “We set the tone for the year and the rest of MAAC play.”

Williams and Crystal Ross helped lead the Jaspers with 17 and 14 points respectively. Ross also had a 6-for-6 shooting night, to go along with eight rebounds. She became the first Jasper to go perfect from the field since Caitlin Flood went 10-for-10 against Siena on Jan. 11, 2008.

Grimme notched 10 points, seven boards and six blocks. Ericksen had 10 points and six rebounds. Blake Underhill tallied seven points and four assists while Amani Tatum put up six points, four rebounds, five assists and had four steals. Freshman Courtney Hagaman notched her first career points in the game.

The Jaspers shot 51.6 percent from the field, compared to 20.8 percent in their game against Yale. They went 35.7 percent from long range and 69.2 percent at the free throw line.

“We had a lot of points in transition,” Olenowski said of the team’s improved offense. “We controlled the ball better and had more balanced scoring.”

Williams said that the team’s 1-3-1 defense is key and Ericksen noted how the team’s shooting overall has gotten better.

The Jaspers had a dominant victory over Brown 80-56 on Sunday Nov. 29. Williams led the team with 25 points, updating her season average to 8.8 points per game. Tatum is leading the scoring for Manhattan with 13 points and 2.4 steals per outing.

Nyasha Irizarry averages 9.5 points per game. Grimme tallies 7.6 points and a league-leading 10 rebounds per outing. She also ranks third nationally with 3.8 blocks per game. Underhill notches a team-high 3.2 assists and 2.1 steals per game.

Olenowski noted how the defense has improved through the season so far compared to last year and that the team has great depth. He was pleased with the team’s offensive weapons that were shown against Niagara and said that it was a key aspect moving forward.

“We’ve improved a lot,” Williams said, “and now we are tied in the conference.”

With the minutes winding down in the game against Niagara, Coach Olenowski substituted all five players on the court with players on the bench, which got every player into the game during the night.

“It really shows our depth,” Ericksen said. “Our bench picks us up.”

Manhattan is 3-0 this season when scoring 80 points or more, previously winning over Brown and an 85-78 victory against Fairleigh Dickinson on Nov. 14.

“We need to keep energy throughout,” Ericksen said of key aspects to take from Friday’s game. “We need to be strong all four quarters like we did tonight.”

Women’s Winter Break Recap

While most college students stayed home over the winter break, many athletes remained on campus for practices and games.

Draddy Gymnasium continued to be filled with Jaspers, whether they were members of the basketball, swimming or track and field teams.

The women’s basketball team was in the midst of an eight-game home stand. The swim team competed in Hawaii. And the track and field team concluded the semester with the Brother Jasper Invitational before competing at the Gotham Cup to start the New Year.

On Dec. 13, at the invitational, the women’s track and field team competed strongly. The team only appeared in five events but came up big with two first-place and two second-place finishes.

Marisa Robbins won first in the pole vault for the second time with her best performance at 3.60 m. Paige Chapman had a solid time of 7.82 seconds winning her the 60.

Lydia Wehrli and Katharina Klien also had strong showings for the Jaspers. Wehrli finished second in the weight throw with her 16.66 m toss and Klien earned second in the shot put at 12.28 m.

The track and field team returns to action on Jan. 23 for the Metro Team Challenge.

On Jan. 9, in Honolulu, Hawaii, the women’s swim team lost a tough meet to Colorado College despite a strong showing. Madison Brown, Sarah Buckley and Alexandra Hutzler were named Manhattan Performers of the Meet. All three earned first-place in their respective events.

Brown had a time of 30.50 in the 50 back, which earned her first place by 1.28 seconds. Buckley posted a 27.19 in the 50 free, taking the lead by .09 seconds. Hutzler earned a top finish in the 100 individual medley with 1:05.97.

The Jaspers return home for Senior Night against Baruch on Jan. 19 and host Hunter on Jan. 23.

The women’s basketball team (2-13, 1-5 MAAC) was busy with its longest home stand in team history. It concluded an eight game stretch at Draddy with a matchup against the Monmouth Hawks (6-9, 2-4 MAAC) on Jan. 16.

The home stand was a tough one for the Jaspers, who finished with a 1-7 record. Their only victory came against the Rider Broncs on Jan. 4.

The team overcame a 12-point deficit to tally a 55-52 win that marked its first win at home over Rider in three years and snapped a 10-game losing streak against it. It was also Manhattan’s first home win since Feb. 4, 2014.

The Jaspers’ next game was against the defending MAAC Champion Marist Red Foxes. The Jaspers had solid individual performances, but it was not enough as they were defeated 67-45.

Shayna Ericksen led the Jaspers with 10 rebounds, eight on the offensive glass. Kayla Grimme had nine points and a career-high five blocks. Taylor Williams tallied six rebounds and Manhattan shot 83.3 percent at the free throw line.

There to witness the game were 850 students from five elementary schools in the area. It was the fifth consecutive year the Jaspers hosted Kid’s Day Out.

In the final game of its home stand, Manhattan was not able to contain the Monmouth Hawks

The Jaspers put up a strong fight by coming back from a 47-33 deficit at the half to get to within two points with just under two minutes left in the game. However, Monmouth converted on its opportunities and staved off the Jaspers for a 73-69 victory.

Next on Manhattan’s schedule is a trip to Albany where it will face the Siena Saints.

Women’s Basketball to Start Season on Friday

The 2014-2015 season is approaching for the Manhattan College women’s basketball team. After a tough loss in the exhibition game against Adelphi on Nov. 7, the team will start its season at home on Nov. 14 when they host Fairleigh Dickinson.

Preparations for the Season

As Manhattan prepares for the season, one thing that is important to them is their young players. They have nine underclassmen, including five freshmen. They increased the depth of the team and have been looking strong early on.

“The team is working very hard,” head coach John Olenowski said. “We have a lot of young players that are learning the college game. I’m happy with their work ethic at this point, and we’re excited to kick off the season.”

“Going into the season, we’re looking to get a lot of people playing,” junior Jacqui Thompson said. “We have a ton of players who can contribute so I think getting people in and out is what we’re looking to do.”

Another aspect of the game that has been helpful to the team is communication. Key things such as getting the younger players used to the game and players stepping up as leaders have improved the team and helped them get ready for the season.

“We have great team chemistry,” junior Shayna Ericksen said, “which is good especially because we are a young team. 

Look for Improvements

The team is ready for the new season and knows what they need and want to improve on from last year. After winning their first game of the season last year, they went on to a tough eight-game losing streak before winning back-to-back games again.

“We need to get off to a better start than we did last season,” Coach Olenowski said. “We need to be more consistent on the defensive end and improve on depth from last year, which I think is going to be one of our strengths.”

Things such as defense, rebounds and team communication are what they are working on to develop better. Ericksen emphasized rebounding and that the team had some flaws with them last year.

“Our transition game could be a lot better this year,” Thompson said. “We’re very athletic. We have a lot of young and athletic players, so looking to get the ball out and push it up the floor will definitely be better than it was last year.”

Key Aspects 

Important things that will help the team this season are their home games and young players.

“We have a good comfort level and it’s a big advantage for us,” Olenowski said of the team’s eight-game home stand.

Fifteen out of their 29 games are at Draddy Gymnasium. This includes the home stand for about a month in December.

“That’s going to be big for us,” Thompson said. “We’re a young team so playing on the court that we do everyday will really help us out a lot.”

The five freshmen have been making a strong impression on the team early on. Three of them started in the exhibition game. Nyasha Irizarry and freshman redshirt Kayla Grimme helped with a 15 and 10-point contribution respectively.

“Hopefully they’re just going to get better and better,” Olenowski said, “and that will help our program continue to get better. It’s nice knowing we will have them for the next four years.”

“I think its good,” Ericksen said. “We’ve got a lot of time to play together. People will get experience. We have a deep team so we can play multiple players.”

Overall Season Goals

Like every team before a new season, the Jaspers are setting goals within the MAAC conference and general goals of winning games and proving themselves to other teams.           

“Our goal is to finish in the top four of the conference,” Olenowski said. “We’ve been able to do this in 3 of 5 years, so that is our initial goal. That takes us into the conference tournament and, at that point, we want to be prepared to win that MAAC conference.”

Both Ericksen and Thompson agreed that proving other teams wrong is an important thing to the team this season. The team has great of talent and they are ready to win.

“A lot of teams aren’t expecting us to be anything special,” Thompson said. “I think we are something special so my goal is to upset a ton of teams that aren’t expecting much from us.”

Women’s Basketball Finishes Canadian Trip 3-1

The Manhattan College women’s basketball team completed a tour of Canada in the cities of Montreal and Ottawa. The six-day trip consisted of four exhibition games against local universities. They finished with an impressive 3-1 record.

With different game rules, such as wider lanes and a 24-second shot clock, there were some changes to get used to. This called for a fast pace game and strong offense.

“It was a great experience,” Coach John Olenowski said. “We played against really good teams with talented athletes. We adapted very well and played solid team basketball.”

In their first game, the Jaspers played strong defensively and earned a 65-58 victory against the University of Ottawa. They had a 31-16 lead at the half and increased to 52-36 by the end of the third. Defense forced 22 turnovers in the game. Offensively, five players had contributed at least seven points.

Their next win was earned with great team effort and chemistry. As scoring kept going back and forth, players stepped up when it was needed and helped win the game. After being tied at 26 by the end of the half, the Jaspers outscored their opponent 25-10 in the fourth quarter.

“When a game is close down the stretch,” Coach Olenowski said, “it takes players to reach down and give it their best effort. We had a lot of players who did that in the close games.”

Whether it was a key steal or rebound, the team worked together to earn the victory. Three players had over 10 points, with Taylor Williams at 15 points and Jacqui Thompson at 14. Shayna Ericksen stepped up with 12 points and seven rebounds.

Despite their third game ending in a loss, there were some valuable lessons that came out of it. Their opponent was McGill University, a nationally ranked team who were the 2013 Quebec provincial champions.

“They were definitely a good team,” Ericksen said. “It helped us prepare for the season.”

Finishing off their trip, the Jaspers earned their third victory against the University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM). After being down in the first quarter, Blake Underhill’s three-pointer gave Manhattan the extra motivation they needed. They led scoring in the second to come within two points at the half. Taking the lead again in the third, the Jaspers went on an 18-13 run to get the win.

Once again, Manhattan’s defense was strong and helped the team earn the victory. They forced 39 turnovers against UQAM.

“Defense is our trademark,” Coach Olenowski said. “We know how important it is for us to be successful. The fact that we caused a lot of turnovers is a very positive sign for our team. It was very good defensive pressure and steals at key moments.”

Overall, the team had a great experience that will help them continue to play strongly when their regular season begins. Players learned each other’s strengths and weaknesses and will use what they experienced in Canada to prepare for the season.

“We’re a young team,” Ericksen said. “We learned how to work together and get things going.”

“It was huge for our program,” Coach Olenowski said. “It gave us a chance to see different lineups and rotations. We developed strong team chemistry. I think it made us better overall as a program.”