Colder temperatures are on the horizon as winter approaches and the Montclair State University’s women’s basketball team is set to get back on the floor and hope to bring the heat to the Panzer Athletic Center in 2023.
The Red Hawks are coming off of a relatively mediocre season as they finished 2022 with a record of 11-14. However, a lot went into that record as it was a year plagued by injuries which allowed many underclassmen to gain valuable playing experience. Despite all of the trials, Montclair State remained very competitive throughout the season.
Montclair State is a much different team compared to last year in a couple of different ways. For starters, the program will be without four year standout player Nickie Carter who will be playing her fifth collegiate season at Division One Fairleigh Dickinson University. Carter was an excellent player for the Red Hawks as she was named Second Team All-Metropolitan Basketball Writers Division III.
It will take some time for Montclair State to get used to life without Carter but it certainly opens the door for new faces to establish themselves within the program. According to Head Coach Karin Harvey, who is entering her seventeenth season in charge, the Red Hawks have a completely different offense and are aiming to have a blanched attack.
“We changed our entire offense, so I think that’s the big key,” Harvey said. “It’s nothing we have ever run before. We’re excited about it, it’s coming along, it’s going to take a little bit of time for it to click completely. We’re doing a few things very differently and we like how it looks right now so I think once we get it working and get some experience in game with it, I think it’s going to be positive.”
Last season younger players like junior forward Olivia Vero, sophomore guard Shannon Hughes, sophomore guard Alexis Strollo and sophomore forward Isabella Orlando all played consistent minutes for the team and the experience they gained should prove to be extremely valuable.
“We had some injuries with Kendall out all season and Megan out for half the season,” Harvey said. “The younger players got a lot of playing time. You can really see it when you see Lex (Alexis Strollo) play, you can tell she got so much experience last year, we started a bunch of sophomores last year so I’m excited to see them. Shannon looks a little more like a junior, Bella looks a little more like a junior so I think that’s the one positive we took from last year.”
A major positive for Montclair State in 2023 is getting senior point guard Kendall Hodges back as she missed most of last season with a torn ACL. With Hodges returning, the Red Hawks get their facilitator back and she also brings tremendous defense along with her. It has been tough at times for Hodges during the recovery process, but the senior has been working very hard to get back and is more determined than ever.
“I think in the beginning it was definitely in the back of my mind (the injury) especially because it was a noncontact injury,” Hodges said. “So it was a little bit nerve racking and my body is just kind of getting used to it. I was ready for the work and I was ready to put in the work and stay focused so I think I just have a sense of excitement and determination this year.”
Hodges is clearly excited just to be back on the floor healthy but her surroundings are what makes the return even more special.
“I think out of my four years this is probably the most I’ve been excited just because of all of the incoming freshmen that came in,” Hodges said. “I think they have a very good mentality and I think our transfer junior Tiffany, I think she’s amazing, she has a great voice during practice. I think everybody is just stepping up and I think the determination mentality is very consistent.”
Guard Avery Jackson is one of the many talented freshmen who have made their way to Montclair State and she feels very much at home. Between meeting Harvey and hearing what the school offers her academically, it was an easy choice of where to go to school.
“Coach Harvey is a very reputable coach, she has a great reputation, she has a lot of wins as you can see that banner is pretty full,” Jackson said. “It was hard getting recruited, you know looking at schools but when I came here everything just checked every box for me. Being a communications major, the school is great for that and I absolutely loved coach.”
With a tremendous coaching staff led by the highly credentialed Harvey, a combination of experienced players and young talent, Montclair State women’s basketball is set for an exciting 2023-2024 season.