Coach Jennifer Rizzotti said team’s depth, maturity and influx of new talent should lead to a successful season; home opener is Nov. 10 against Princeton.
The 2019-2020 version of the George Washington University women’s basketball team has lots of new faces, but the team’s coach still expects the Colonials to challenge for a conference championship.
Head coach Jennifer Rizzotti, entering her fourth season at GW, said better depth and more talent are key reasons her expectations for success are high.
“We have seven new people who didn’t play a game for us last year,” Ms. Rizzotti said. “More than half our team is new, so we’re going to look a lot different. We’re deeper one through 13, and that’s the first time I’ve been able to say that since I’ve been here. I’m excited about the newcomers and the guys returning.”
In her three prior years at GW, Ms. Rizzotti guided the Colonials to two postseason appearances, including the NCAA Tournament in 2018. This year, the team opens its regular season on 7 p.m. Wednesday at Villanova. The first home game is at noon Sunday against Princeton.
(GW Sports has planned a series of events for home opener weekend, including a Sunday brunch before the women's basketball game.)
Returning to the team are Maddie Loder, Kayla Mokwuah and Neila Luma. All three received extensive playing time last season, a bonus for this season’s Colonials team. “It helped them in terms of their confidence and understanding what it’s going to take to be a lot better this year,” Ms. Rizzotti said.
(Watch video of Coach Rizzotti discuss this year’s team with GW Sports’ Kevin Burke.)
To improve, this Colonials team will have to rebound better and score more on offense. “We had to play at a certain pace last year because we weren’t very deep,” Ms. Rizzotti said. “We’re more athletic, and we should be able to play a little faster. Scoring at a higher rate is important to us.”
Kayla Mokwuah is one of the team's returning players who had extensive playing time last season. (William Atkins/GW Today)
Transfers also will make an immediate impact, giving the Colonials more scoring threats than they’ve had in the past. Sharp-shooting guard Sydney Zambrotta played in 62 games over two years for the University of Louisville, finishing with 46 3-point shots in that span while making almost 36 percent of her 3-point attempts. Ms. Zambrotta, who was part of Louisville’s Final Four team in 2018, has two years of eligibility to play at GW.
“She comes from a program that’s had a lot of success at a national level,” Ms. Rizzotti said. “She wants to help build that kind of environment at GW. I’m excited to see how she can elevate our guard play.”
Ms. Loder, Ms. Zambrotta and Ms. Hyduke give the Colonials multiple options at point.
Sharp-shooting guard Sydney Zambrotta, a transfer from Louisville, gives the Colonials options at guard. (William Atkins/GW Today)
Ms. Stephenson averaged 11.7 points and 2.1 assists per game while starting 79 games for the Wake Forest. Ms. Maund averaged 5.8 points and 4.2 rebounds per game while making 51 percent of her shots in her final year at Yale.
“Having them come in as fifth-year college students and 22-year-olds certainly adds maturity and understanding as to what it takes to be a college athlete,” Ms. Rizzotti said.
GW started 2-10 a year ago. Ms. Rizzotti doesn’t shy away from a tough nonconference schedule, although she understands the need to balance that with confidence that comes with winning games. “I like to schedule teams who are used to winning championships in their league, and that makes it a little bit daunting for our team,” she said. “I do it for a reason. It’s part of the process.
“It would be nice to get a few wins in November,” she added.