Montclair State’s women’s basketball team has a 14-1 record midway through the 2016-17 season, while ranked No. 17 in the country. They are the New Jersey Athletic Conference’s (NJAC) sole representative in the Top 25 rankings. The Red Hawks top the NJAC in numerous statistical categories and have had a near-perfect start, and now the final act for this season’s edition of the Red Hawks’ team is about to begin.
The current lineup took form at the beginning of 2016. Kate Tobie, Rachel Krauss, Zoe Curtis, Katie Sire and Sage Bennett started the first game of 2016 and remained the starters at the end of the year. Aside from adding a few freshmen over the summer, the team has stayed the same. It’s a group that led Montclair State to its fourth consecutive NJAC championship and a gritty performance in a loss against Albright College in the NCAA Division III Tournament’s Round of 32 last season. The infusion of three freshmen helped the Red Hawks to 11 straight victories to end 2016.
The numbers speak for themselves. The Red Hawks had a 25-4 overall record in 2016, scored 68.2 points per game while surrendering only 51.3 per game and they ended the year ranked no. 11 in the country.
The women’s basketball team has a chance to parlay the continuity, consistency and success they had last year into something greater in the 2017 NJAC and NCAA DIII Tournaments. Sitting atop the NJAC, the Red Hawks are positioned well to make a run with the 2016-17 season going as planned.
Sire has consistently been Montclair State’s best player—leading the team in points, rebounds and steals—and she received a spot on the D3Hoops.com Team of the Week for a pair of 29 and 22-point performances just over a week ago. After starting slow, Krauss’s three-point shooting returned and remains one of the Red Hawks’ top scoring threats.
Halfway through the 2016-17 season, Montclair State’s depth in the post has been one of the team’s most improved aspects. Freshman forward Alex McKinnon came in right away and provided the Red Hawks with spacing on the offensive end. She has averaged 14.5 minutes per game in the season’s first 15 games. Junior forward Yazmine Lacey has been the other reason for Montclair State’s improved post depth, as she has played with more polish at both ends of the floor.
Aside from one loss to The College of New Jersey (TCNJ), the Red Hawks have moved through their competition with relative ease. The women’s basketball team has become an even better defensive team than they were in the 2015-16 season and they haven’t suffered the same scoring droughts which plagued them last year. The Red Hawks top the NJAC in scoring defense, scoring margin and three-pointers made.
Tobie’s scoring output has increased—she has gone from 5.4 points per game to 8.9 points per game—but one of the few things preventing the Red Hawks from becoming a complete offensive team is the bench production from their guards. The team’s guards outside of Tobie and Krauss have by no means been a detriment off the bench, but they haven’t provided a considerable scoring boost for the team’s second unit.
Regardless, the 2016-17 season has gone as hoped for the women’s basketball team. They have continued to build on their chemistry from last season and the Red Hawks have played as a more complete team. Now, after practically a full season together, Montclair State will make their push in the last half of the 2016-17 season, then into the NJAC playoffs, and a NCAA Division III Tournament run.