by, Pete Janny, Sports Editor
On paper, the Manhattan’s women’s basketball team boasts arguably the most talented collection of offensive talent in the MAAC. Unfortunately, their stay in Atlantic City came to an end earlier than expected.
Instead of COVID-19 ending their season like it did last year, this time it was the Fairfield Stags, who held Manhattan to 24 percent shooting in a 61-50 win. The Lady Jaspers’ offense went cold at the wrong time, with star players Emily LaPointe, Courtney Warley and Dee Dee Davis combining to go 10-of-37 from the field in the loss.
The Jaspers’ trio of stars couldn’t keep up with Fairfield’s top players, Lou Lopez-Senechal and Sam Lewis. Those two were in sync from the get-go and it paid dividends for a Fairfield team that was relatively quiet otherwise.
Both veteran players accounted for 19 of the Stags’ first 25 points, handing their team a 25-10 lead with a little over three minutes left in the second quarter. Although Manhattan played solid interior defense, a few lapses on the perimeter led to Fairfield hitting some open looks from the outside.
As a team, Fairfield went only 6-of-20 from deep, and especially struggled in the second half going 1-of-12 from three.
Sadly, that ended up being a moot point as Manhattan struggled in that category as well. Their 3-of-23 shooting from three was reminiscent of what the men’s team did two days earlier; in both cases, neither team found enough ways to salvage their season.
“We didn’t shoot well and it’s been an Achilles heel for us this year,” Heather Vulin told reporters on Zoom after the game. “I was pleased with the quality shots we got and how hard my team battled.”
Even despite the cold shooting, the Lady Jaspers were able to get within seven two times in the second half, as they refused to call it quits. Warley bounced back in the second half with 11 points to at least keep her team competitive. With little to nothing falling, the Lady Jaspers had no other options but to keep giving Warley the ball to see if she could make plays.
Warley and Davis each scored 11 for Manhattan. On the other hand, the Stags were paced by 21 points from Lopez-Senechal and 11 from Lewis.
Thanks to Manhattan’s almost month-long hiatus caused by COVID-19 at the end of the season, they were never able to play Fairfield in the regular season.
“It was a tough season but that’s what we prepared for,” Dee Dee Davis told reporters on Zoom after the game. “That was just the hand we were dealt and we tried to make the best of it.”
As the preseason number one team in the MAAC, Vulin was tasked with leading a team with championship expectations through the most trying of circumstances imaginable. The players did their best with it, and that’s all Vulin and the fans could ask for out of them.
Manhattan will head back to the drawing board this offseason in hopes of taking the next step in their development. Most of their core will be back, and barring injuries, they will be projected to finish high in the MAAC again. Unless her plans change, the team will be led once again by Warley, who has another year of eligibility left.
As it stands, the two starters not returning are Pamela Miceus and Gabby Campus, who are set to graduate and leave behind legacies that transcend basketball. After earning their Bachelor’s Degrees last May, both are on track to complete graduate school at Manhattan.
After making the team as a walk-on her sophomore year, one could say Miceus overachieved in her four seasons, finishing her career in sixth place on the school’s blocks list with 101 career rejections. This season also represented her best one at Manhattan, as Miceus averaged 8.1 points-per-games and 5.5 rebounds-per-game.
Undersized at the point-guard position, Cajou did not let any height difference disrupt her confidence on the court. Despite being most known for her speed and defensive motor, Cajou ends her career in eighth place on the program’s all-time assists list with 350 helpers. With Cajou moving on, guards such as Dee Dee Davis and Emily LaPointe will be expected to do most of the heavy lifting in the backcourt next season.
Although far from the ending they wanted, Manhattan can appreciate the opportunity to finally compete at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall after what happened last season. If they are truly serious about winning a MAAC Championship next season, this season showed there is still more work that needs to be done than expected — and that’s okay. From the beginning, this season was not going to be normal for anyone while playing during a global pandemic.
“We’re just grateful to compete on this floor this year because last year we didn’t get to take a single shot,” Vulin said about the adversity of last year’s cancellation. “We’ve always had a close-knit team but what was going on in the world with COVID-19 and social justice I think we got even closer. 20 years from now we will appreciate the time we had together this year.”