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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Western New York’s four Division I women’s college basketball teams are set to kick off their seasons this week.
All four squads open their respective campaigns against local competition, with Buffalo and Canisius facing off Monday night, while St. Bonaventure and Niagara do battle on Wednesday.
Here is a breakdown of each team heading into the season, including rosters, schedules, and preseason expectations.
Coach: Becky Burke (12-16), 2nd season
Last season: 12-16, 7-11 (8th MAC), 213 NET
Preseason projections: 8th in MAC coaches poll
Schedule highlights: Nov. 6 vs Canisius (home opener), Nov. 14 vs Niagara, Nov. 22 vs St. Bonaventure, Jan. 3 vs Kent State (MAC opener), Mar. 9 vs Ball State (home finale)
Returning: 6-2 GS Kiara Johnson (6.8 PPG, 4.5 RPG), 6-2 So. Hattie Ogden (5.1 PPG, 2.9 RPG), 5-5 GS Briyanna Baron (1.0 PPG, 0.2 RPG)
Arrivals: 5-7 Fr. Jessica Wangolo (Ottawa, Ontario), 5-3 Sr. Rana Elhusseini (Edinboro), 5-10 Fr. Kirsten Lewis-Williams (Mooresville, N.C.), 5-11 Fr. Ella Take (Kingston, Ontario), 5-10 Jr. Sitita Gines (St. John’s), 5-8 Fr. Paula Lopez (Alicante, Spain), 6-2 Jr. Ida Jonsson Ojala (Norrkoping, Sweden), 6-0 Fr. Chryssi Gouzelou (Athens, Greece), 6-0 Fr. Alexis Davis (Woodbury, N.J.), 5-9 Jr. Katie Burton (St. John’s), 6-2 Jr. Chanteese Craig (Waba Valley College), 5-8 RS Sr. Chellia Watson (USC Upstate)
Departures: Zakiyah Winfield (graduated), Re’Shawna Stone (graduated), Jazmine Young (graduated), Emerita Mashaire (Pepperdine), Kayla Salmons (left program), Latrice Perkins (graduated), Caelan Ellis (Charleston Southern), Olivia DiBortoli (graduated)
Outlook: The Bulls return only three players from last year’s roster and have six freshmen. Kiara Johnson was limited to just six games last season. USC Upstate transfer Chellia Watson sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules but averaged 15.6 PPG in 2021-22. Beat Daemen 58-42 in an exhibition game on Oct. 28.
Coach: Sahar Nusseibeh (15-45), 3rd season
Last season: 9-21, 6-14 (9th MAAC), 318 NET
Preseason projections: 9th in MAAC coaches poll
Schedule highlights: Nov. 6 at Buffalo, Nov. 11 vs Saint Francis (home opener), Nov. 26 at Illinois, Nov. 30 at St. Bonaventure, Dec. 16 at Siena (MAAC opener), Jan. 30 vs Niagara, Mar. 2 vs Rider (home finale), Mar. 9 at Niagara
Returning: 6-2 So. Sisi Eleko (8.6 PPG, 5.7 RPG), 5-9 Jr. Athina Lexa (5.4 PPG, 2.8 RPG), 5-9 GS Jane McCauley (4.1 PPG, 0.5 RPG), 6-3 So. Chloe Chard Peloquin (3.9 PPG, 3.2 RPG), 6-0 So. Brooklyn Thrash (3.8 PPG, 2.0 RPG), 6-1 Sr. Giana Hernandez-Boulden (3.8 PPG, 2.0 RPG), 5-11 So. Adrien LaMora (2.7 PPG, 2.3 RPG), 5-9 Jr. Xanthippi Karatsiou (12 total minutes)
Arrivals: 5-5 Fr. Saige Randolph (Albany, N.Y.), 5-7 Fr. Mary Copple (Brighton, Mich.), 5-5 Sr. Mackenzie Amalia (Robert Morris), 5-11 GS Grace Heeps (Albany), 5-7 GS Bri Rozzi (Loyola Md.), 6-0 GS Tihanna Fulton (Miami-Ohio)
Departures: Dani Haskell (St. Bonaventure), Vanessa Garrelts (graduated), Cheyenne Stubbs (Utah State), Lydia Gattozzi (USC Beaufort), Elia Paez (left program), Rhay Porter (AIC)
Outlook: The Griffs lost their top two scorers from last year, one of them in the portal to a local rival. However, they return a strong core from last season including Sisi Eleko, Athina Lexa and Jane McAuley. Canisius has not finished above .500 in league play since the 2008-09 campaign.
Coach: Jada Pierce (88-138), 9th season
Last season: 18-13, 16-4 (2nd in MAAC), 249 NET
Preseason projections: 1st in MAAC coaches poll
Schedule highlights: Nov. 8 vs St. Bonaventure (home opener), Nov. 14 at Buffalo, Nov. 24 vs LSU (Cayman Islands), Nov. 25 vs UCLA (Cayman Islands), Nov. 29 at Maryland, Dec. 16 at Iona (MAAC opener), Dec. 21 at West Virginia, Jan. 30 at Canisius, Mar. 9 vs Canisius (home finale)
Returning: 5-9 Jr. Aaliyah Parker (16.9 PPG, 7.7 RPG), 5-5 GS Angel Parker (15.5 PPG, 4.0 RPG), 5-10 So. Jade Rutledge (4.7 PPG, 3.3 RPG), 6-0 Sr. Saige Glover (3.9 PPG, 3.0 RPG), 5-5 So. Ary Hicks (3.9 PPG, 2.2 RPG), 5-9 Sr. Lore Porter (3.4 PPG, 1.2 RPG), 5-7 Jr. Lexie Roe (2.1 PPG), 6-2 So. Amelia Strong (1.6 PPG, 1.5 RPG), 5-9 So. Shelby Fiddler (1.1 PPG, 0.6 RPG), 5-10 So. Marlie Dickerson (0.8 PPG, 1.0 RPG)
Arrivals: 5-3 So. Chardonnay Hartley (Longwood), 5-9 GS Destiny Strother (Pittsburgh), 5-11 Fr. Alyssa Rossignol (Enfield, Conn.), 6-1 Fr. Kylie Buckley (Livonia, N.Y.)
Departures: Nickelle O’Neil (graduated), Sydney Faulcon (graduated), Maddy Yelle (graduated), Brooklyn Jones (Morgan State)
Outlook: The Purple Eagles come into the season as the favorites in the MAAC behind the conference’s preseason player of the year Aaliyah Parker. Her sister, Angel, was also named to the preseason first team. Transfer Destiny Strother played in 16 games and made one start for Pitt last season at the ACC level. Niagara has never made the NCAA tournament at the Division I level and is looking to change that this season. Blew out Mercyhurst 91-61 in an exhibition on Nov. 1.
Coach: Jim Crowley (382-394, 258-231 at Bona), 1st season of second stint, 17th overall
Last season: 6-26, 3-13 (14th in Atlantic 10), 327 NET
Preseason projections: Picked 14th in Atlantic 10 coaches poll
Schedule highlights: Nov. 8 at Niagara, Nov. 11 vs Robert Morris (home opener), Nov. 22 at Buffalo, Nov. 30 vs Canisius, Dec. 2 at West Virginia, Dec. 30 vs Loyola-Chicago (Atlantic 10 opener), Mar. 2 vs Richmond (home finale)
Returning: 5-6 Sr. Nadechka Laccen (7.7 PPG, 4.0 RPG), 5-10 Sr. Maddie Dziezgowski (6.8 PPG, 2.9 RPG), 5-10 Sr. Tianna Johnson (6.6 PPG, 3.8 RPG), 6-0 Jr. Taylor Napper (4.3 PPG, 2.7 RPG), 5-10 So. Kirah Dandridge (2.7 PPG, 2.6 RPG), 6-0 Sr. Payton Fields (2.6 PPG, 2.0 RPG), 5-11 Sr. Claire Cody (1.9 PPG, 1.5 RPG)
Arrivals: 5-9 Jr. Isabellah Middleton (Slippery Rock), 6-0 So. Tamar voor de Poort (Doetinchem, Netherlands), 5-0 Sr. Dani Haskell (Canisius)
Departures: I’Yanna Lops (Seton Hall), Nikki Oppenheimer (graduated), Breauna Ware (Stony Brook), Aaniya Webb (Tennessee State), Kaitlyn Parker (graduated), Flera Vinerte (Emporia State)
Outlook: Former coach Jim Crowley returns to the sidelines at Reilly Center for the first time since 2016 following a seven-year stint at Providence. In 16 seasons with St. Bonaventure in his first stint, he took the Bonnies to the NCAA tournament twice, including to the Sweet 16 in 2012. Crowley also took the program to the WNIT four times. Brings in local product Dani Haskell, who led Canisius with 10.7 PPG last season and was an all-conference third-team pick. Beat D’Youville 62-48 in exhibition on Nov. 4.
Aidan Joly joined the News 4 staff in 2022. He is a graduate of Canisius College. You can see more of his work here.