The Manhattan College Jaspers enjoyed the biggest win turnaround in the NCAA in the 2015-2016 season. After going 3-27 in the 2014-2015 season, the Jaspers won 15 games last year.
Looking to build on the success of the 2016 campaign, the Jaspers hired head coach Heather Vulin for the 2016-2017 season. But Manhattan’s improvement hit a bump in the road in Vulin’s first season, as the Jaspers went 8-22.
On Thursday, Manhattan’s season came to an end in the first round of the MAAC Tournament with a 62-46 loss to the Monmouth Hawks.
The Jaspers were outrebounded 49-29, as the Hawks owned a considerable size advantage.
“The biggest disappointment for me is we knew they were a tremendous rebounding team and we didn’t consistently buy in that we had to rebound,” Vulin said. “When you get outrebounded by 20 this is what’s going to happen.”
In Vulin’s first season as head coach, the Jaspers regressed on the court, partly because of an inexperienced roster. Manhattan lost five seniors, and featured a team of sophomores and juniors with very little playing experience.
“In terms of execution of our game plan, it was really frustrating for me that our Achilles heel all year was we didn’t have people consistently knock down open shots, and rebounding was a major struggle,” Vulin said.
Vulin admitted that she knew the lack of depth would be a problem when taking the job, but she had other goals in mind for her first season.
“My goal with this year was just to really get our culture up and make sure we’re committed to doing things the right way,” Vulin said. “I think in terms of that, I’m going to give myself an A on that.”
On the court on Thursday, Manhattan was nowhere near an A. The Jaspers opened the contest going scoreless for nearly three minutes, and digging themselves into a 7-0 hole. Monmouth owned the glass, grabbing five offensive rebounds in the quarter and led 16-10 after the first.
“I think we had a rocky start so that didn’t help us,” Kayla Grimme, who led Manhattan with 22 points said. “At moments, we pulled it together and looked good … we just have to carry that into next year.”
The Jaspers opened up the second on a 7-0 run to go up 17-16, but Monmouth regained its footing, and continued to own the paint. The Hawks outscored the Jaspers 24-12 in the paint, and outrebounded them 25-16 to carry a 32-27 lead at halftime.
Manhattan’s offensive woes were on full display in the third, as the team went scoreless for eight minutes, and the Hawks used a 19-0 run to take full command of the game.
“Offensively, I thought we got some really good shots during that 19-0 run, but we weren’t putting the ball in the basket,” Vulin said.
Gabby Cajou and Grimme were the only offensive weapons for the Jaspers in the second half. Cajou scored eight and Grimme scored nine points in the second half.
“I think right now establishing a good culture and getting all of our heads in the right direction, and having the same mindset and goal, I think that’s really what we need to focus on right now,” Grimme said about what Manhattan must do to rebound next season.
The Jaspers end a disappointing 2016-2017 campaign, but lose just one senior for next season. With a year under their belt, Vulin hopes Manhattan can turn things around.
“It’s a great program … and I’m really excited to really rebuild it and I think we’re definitely going in the right direction,” Vulin said.