For Manhattan College’s women’s basketball team, the season came to an end at the hands of the Marist Red Foxes in the quarterfinals of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament.
For some squads, an elimination this early in the tournament would be deemed disappointing. And while the Jaspers are unsatisfied with the result, a quarterfinal appearance almost seemed extra, given the team’s 2014-2015 season.
Manhattan turned a 3-27 campaign last year into a 15-16 season this year, that saw it win a first round game in the MAAC Tournament.
“We had a great, great season,” John Olenowski, Manhattan’s head coach said after the loss to Marist. “I can’t say enough about the effort they gave. I can’t say enough about their turnaround this year. … I can’t tell you how proud I am of the fact that we’ve done that and these ladies have proven they’re great basketball players.”
The turnaround drew praise from Marist head coach Brian Giorgis, who admired the job Olenowski has done.
“Manhattan is an excellent team,” Giorgis said. “John’s [Olenowski] done a great job. I think it’s the biggest turnaround in the NCAA thus year, from last year to this year.”
Manhattan’s 12-win improvement is tied with Georgetown for first in the nation. The drastic turnaround comes as a result of player development and the additions of James Madison transfers Amani Tatum and Crystal Ross.
Tatum, who sat out a year due to NCAA rules, has been at the head of Manhattan’s offense and defense. Her team-leading 11.9 points per game, along with her league-leading 3.3 steals per game—fifth in the NCAA—garnered recognition from the conference. Tatum was named to the Second Team All-MAAC Team, as well as winning Defensive Player of the Year.
While her numbers have been welcomed by Manhattan, it’s her leadership that has been of added importance. Tatum was named co-captain of the team along with Jacqui Thompson, and has been a believer in the team all season.
“I expected this from us from the beginning of the season,” Tatum said after the loss to Marist. “I saw what we were capable of. At the beginning of the season and as we progressed, it’s a great opportunity to be here. Never satisfied because we had a goal this year, but I’m happy we made it this far and I’m happy with what we did with this season.”
In the loss to Marist, there were some bright spots for Manhattan, and a glimpse of what is to come for next year. Tatum notched 12 points, seven rebounds, five assists and two steals, while Kayla Grimme, recorded a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
The center broke the single-season blocks record in Manhattan history with 69 blocks this year, and is one of a large core of Manhattan players that return next season. Along with Tatum and Grimme, Manhattan returns Taylor Williams, Mikki Guiton, Maeve Parahus, and Nyasha Irizarry, who was second on the team in scoring with 8.9 points per game.
The days of three wins in a season are far behind Manhattan. With a group of players coming back in 2016-2017 and some experience gained in the tournament this year, Olenowski believes Manhattan’s future looks bright.
“I think this team is going to be great next year,” Olenowski said. “I think they worked hard. I think the fact is that they’ll be better for it next year. I think that there’s quite a nucleus coming back. … Good things are ahead for the Jaspers.”