(Photo Credit: Cameron Hurst)
By Cameron Hurst @CameronNHurst
Prior to the season, the Niagara Purple Eagles women’s basketball team received a preseason ranking of ninth in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
However, after a convincing season opening 65-43 victory over the St. Bonaventure Bonnies at the Gallagher Center, the Purple Eagles proved that there may be more than meets the eye to head coach Jada Pierce’s squad.
And, after her 17-point and seven-rebound performance, Niagara has redshirt junior Victoria Rampado to thank for being a catalyst for the team.
The Bonnies, who ultimately committed 16 turnovers to Rampado and the Purple Eagles, unfortunately were the first to realize that this year.
“I’m very disappointed with our effort, personally,” continued Fleming, who is well aware of his team’s timeline for growth.
“I know this year is going to be a process with so many new faces and expanded roles and I’m not going to live and die by one game, but we’ve gotta start getting better and better.”
Despite struggling on defense, the Bonnies did, however, receive encouraging offensive efforts from graduate student Gabby Richmond and sophomore Mckenna Maycock. Richmond finished with a team high 13 points and 10 rebounds while also turning in a career high four blocks. Maycock turned in a career high 10-point performance.
However, Richmond and Maycock turned the ball over a combined seven times, which affected the Bonnies’ ability to keep up and stay with the Purple Eagles.
“That’s where our depth issues are a little bit,” Fleming said regarding the team’s struggle to keep the ball. “I don’t have the trust in our bench right now. I will get there and the bench is completely freshmen. However, it’s such a slim margin of error right now.”
Richmond also struggled to finish at the basket due to heavy Niagara defense on several of her shots, which, despite the points she did have, made all the difference for St. Bonaventure.
“[Richmond] is coming from off the bench last year so she’s still expanding,” said Fleming. “She could’ve still early on finished around the basket and even had a little bit of a better game, but she competed all the way through and that was good to see.”
Considering their youth, Fleming is fully aware that games against like Niagara are bound to happen. However, in looking ahead, the Bonnies will have a quick turnaround to look ahead as they host Colgate on Sunday at 1 p.m. for their home opener.
“We’ve got to work our way toward March with this team,” Fleming said. “This is 100 percent not an excuse in using our age as a crutch. But I just know we’re going to get better and better, but there are going to be nights like this, unfortunately. And it’s our job now to make sure they understand that if we take it on the chin a little bit here, let’s get the learning experience and let’s get better from it.”