SCRANTON, Pa - The University of Scranton women's basketball program will begin a new era on Saturday afternoon, as first year head coach Trevor Woodruff coaches in his first game as the head man for the Lady Royals.
Woodruff is no stranger to the college game, coaching for the last 11 seasons at Misericordia - but as the Cougars' men's coach. This, however, has not changed Woodruff's philosophy in coaching the women's game and the Lady Royals, as he inherits a roster that returns nine letterwinners and won 24 games last season.
"It's been great so far, I can't say enough about the support we have gotten from the community," said Woodruff. "The girls have been open in accepting me and they realize that we can do. It's been a good start in what I hope will be a great long term future for us."
The Lady Royal's top returner will be junior forward Sarah Payonk (Schwenksville, Pa./Spring-Ford), a two-time All-Landmark Selection who has averaged 10.5 points and 8.7 rebounds for her career, making a start in all 58 games she's been in uniform for Scranton the last two seasons.
The 2013-14 Landmark Conference Rookie of the Year, Payonk averaged almost a double-double last season with 9.8 points and 9.2 rebounds per contest, which earned her All-Landmark Second Team honors at the end of the season.
Woodruff, however, expects Payonk to be the focal point of the offense, something she has not experienced to this point in her career.
Fellow junior forward Alexix Roman (Hawley, Pa./Wallenpaupack) will join Payonk inside to create a dynamic front court for the Lady Royals. Roman played in all 28 games for Scranton last season, averaging 8.5 points and 5.6 rebounds per game on the year, and expects to have a bigger role in the offense this year.
Woodruff expects big things from his two seniors, not only on the court, but off the court, as well, in leadership capacities. Last season, Gantz played in all 28 games, while Alicea played and started in 27 games, averaging 8.2 points per contest for the year.
Other returnees who will look to provide depth in the backcourt include senior Karolina Meisenbacher (Basking Ridge, N.J./Mount Saint Mary Academy) and sophomore's Katie O'Reilly (Montville, N.J./Montville) and Katie Broderick (New Fairfield, Conn./New Fairfield).
The Lady Royals welcomed six newcomers into the program in the offseason.
Woodruff expects the two guards of the class in Christina Peden (Wantagh, N.Y./Wantagh) and Bridgette Mann (Canadensis, Pa./Wallenpaupack) to battle for playing time and contribute as the season moves along.
Scranton also added three more guards in Airielle Jenkins (Bristow, Va./Wakefield School), Carolyn Giordano (Annadale, N.J./North Hunterdon) and Madison Ashby (Pittston, Pa./Scranton Prep), while adding one forward in Jessica Anderson (Smithtown, N.Y./Smithtown).
The Lady Royals kick off the 2015-16 campaign this weekend at the DeSales Tournament, where they will take on The College of New Jersey on Saturday, then either host DeSales or Widender on Sunday.
Scranton returns home for their first of 11 home games inside the John Long Center on November 21st, as they take on Wilkes. Following road games at Cabrini (Nov. 24) and Kings (Nov. 30), the Lady Royals open Landmark Conference play on December 5 at Juniata.
Following a break for final exams, Scranton hosts Merchant Marine in their final conference tilt before the Holidays on December 13. Later that week, the Lady Royals will host the Hilton Poinsettia Classic at the Long Center, first taking on Johnson & Wales to open play on Dec. 15. Play in the classic concludes on Dec. 16.
Before the Holiday break, the Lady Royals will pack their bags and head to Las Vegas for the 2015 Las Vegas Hoopla on Dec. 20 and 21. Scranton will play Emory & Henry and Bridgewater over those two days.
Once the calendar turns to 2016, Scranton will only have Landmark Conference games on their slate, three coming in January and three more coming in February. The program's final regular season game at home will be held on Feb. 13 against Goucher.
To view the full 2015-16 University of Scranton women's basketball schedule, click here.
Overall, Scranton was slated to finish second in the preseason Landmark Conference Poll behind Catholic, the team who beat the Lady Royals in the Landmark Championship Game a season ago inside the John Long Center.
Nationally, the Lady Royals will start the season ranked 25th in the USA Today Division III Coaches' Poll, so the expectations coming into the season have not waned for Scranton, something that Woodruff welcomes in his first season on the bench for the Lady Royals.
"We have a set of high expectations," said Woodruff. "The tradition of excellence that both Mike Strong and Deanna Klingman built here speaks for itself. It wouldn't matter who the next coach was, that level of expectation doesn't change.
"We've entered the preseason with idea that we're going to compete for a [Landmark] Conference Championship and make some noise in the NCAA Tournament, that's always the expectation. I look forward to the challenge."