West Chester University’s women’s basketball team kicked off their 2021–2022 season last weekend with the annual Carol Eckman Memorial Classic, a weekend-long tournament honoring their former head coach, who passed away from cancer in 1985. The Golden Rams are taking the court for the first time since a disappointing 2019–2020 season, in which they finished with a 9–18 record and were unable to qualify for the PSAC tournament.
West Chester has many returning players this season, including Leah Johnson, Justyn Roberts, Kyra Jefferson and Sarah Holweg. Johnson is the team’s leading return scorer, averaging 11.6 points per game in her freshman year. She was valuable on the defensive end as well, averaging 2.1 steals per game, which ranked third best in the entire league. The team welcomes another scorer with Bink Redman, a Lock Haven transfer, entering the fold for her senior year. She averaged 8.2 points per game on 47.6 percent shooting from the field. These returning players, along with Redman, will look to provide veteran leadership to a strong freshman class featuring players such as Alana Boyer, Alexa Abbonizio, Maya Carter and Rachel Conran.
“The upperclassmen have taught me what it means to be a leader,” says Abbonizio, a freshman who was a standout player at Springfield High School in Delaware County prior to her tenure at West Chester. “They showed me what it takes to play at the college level. I really look up to them because they care so much about this team, and they put so much work into their game that is really admirable.” When asked about her expectations for the upcoming season, she added that she wants to be a good aspect to the team and help [The Golden Rams] win as many games as they can. Abbonizio broke the record for most points all-time at Springfield, and her addition certainly adds firepower to an already-improved Golden Rams offensive unit.
The Golden Rams were picked seventh in the PSAC East Preseason Poll out of a total of nine teams. Shippensburg, the defending division winner, was named the number one team heading into the season, with Shepherd, Kutztown, East Stroudsburg and Lock Haven rounding out the top five of the rankings. Despite West Chester’s low initial ranking, they are not discouraged and this gives them extra motivation heading into the long season. It remains to be seen if they will be able to defy these rankings, however, an abundance of experienced players, combined with a deep, talented freshman class, makes them a sleeper pick to make the playoffs this season. They will resume action on Wednesday with a road matchup against Lincoln University before returning home on Nov. 21, for a contest with Chestnut Hill College. Home games are played at Hollinger Fieldhouse, located at 150 University Ave, across from Alleghany Hall. Their first in-conference matchup will take place on Dec. 4, when they take on Indiana University of Pennsylvania. For tickets and more information on the team, visit the West Chester Golden Rams Athletics website, or check out the box office located at the lower level of Sykes Student Union.
Erick Klambara is a third-year Media & Culture major with a minor in Journalism. EK924666@wcupa.edu