West Windsor, N.J. -- The Mercer women’s basketball team may have ended the year short of its preseason goal to make the Region 19 Tournament, but the Lady Vikes can be proud of their progress this year. They finished 10-17 and improved on last season's win/loss record by four games.
According to Head Coach Mike Tenaglia, the Lady Vikes’ biggest challenge was closing out the wins in close games. They lost eight Region 19 games by 10 points or fewer, including three losses by just one point. "A few wins in those close games could have made the difference in qualifying for the playoffs," he said.
Tenaglia notes that by winter break, the team had lost a few key players. He particularly cited the loss of point guard Monaee Fields, whose stellar ball handling skills were difficult to replace.
Still, Tenaglia says the season was packed with learning. “We had all the other pieces in place. Our girls stepped up and played hard. We were able to be a threat in a lot of games.”
Two sophomores performed especially well – Morgan Cullen and Erin Sobkowiak, both of whom were named to the Second Team All Garden State Conference. Cullen averaged 12.1 points per game and finished the season with 65 three-point field goals. Sobkowiak averaged 8.4 points and 8.6 rebounds per game, finishing nationally in the top 50 in both defensive rebounds (37th) and blocks (44th) per game.
The Vikings also got solid leadership from sophomores Jackie Laurenti and Heather Gurdon. Laurenti, a two-sport athlete who played goalkeeper for the women’s soccer team in the fall, averaged 5.9 points and 5.1 rebounds per game, while Gurdon, who returned to the team after a redshirt year due to an ACL injury, continued to battle injuries this season, but still contributed 5.0 points per game and led the team in defensive charges taken.
Coach Tenaglia is already optimistic about the 2014-15 roster. Two freshman forwards, Brandi Grimes and Chioma Okoro, had big seasons and are expected to be back. Both women showed steady progress, with Grimes finishing the season averaging 8.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, and Okoro averaging 9.0 rebounds per game. Okoro finished 37th in the nation in offensive rebounds, with 4.0 per game. The Vikings will also have returning guards Kaitlyn Wolfsgruber and Cai-Cai Hahn, who gave the team some key minutes this season.
"We are especially proud of our sophomores, who have done well athletically and academically. It's our goal to take them to the next level and to see them excel at whatever they move on to next," Tenaglia said.
Tenaglia was assisted this season by Jane Berlinger and Samantha Cobbs, an alumna of the Mercer basketball program. He credits both coaches for their dedication throughout the season.
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