By: Dan Durkin – Staff Writer
The Dayton women’s basketball 2015-2016 season has come to an end. The Flyers finished with a record of 14-14 and posted a 7-9 record in Atlantic 10 conference play. It was definitely not the record they expected to have going into this season, but with an injury-riddled team and a lot of close losses, that is usually the kind of record to expect. This season will snap a six-year run of playing in the NCAA Tournament.
It was a wild season, with winning streaks and losing streaks. There was no consistency, and the Flyers experienced as many close losses as big wins. Young players stepped up to fill the roles of established upperclassmen like Kelley Austria and Amber Deane, who suffered injuries and couldn’t return for the rest of the season.
The Flyers lost what was most likely their last game of the season to George Mason on Thursday in the second round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament, 66-62, in Richmond, Virginia.
According to head coach Jim Jabir, this game was no different from the rest of games that the Flyers played in this season.
“This game was pretty indicative of how we’ve played down the stretch,” Jabir said during his postgame press conference Thursday. “Other than the Fordham game that we played at home [and played] like ourselves, we’ve struggled and fought to get to a point where were down a possession at the end of the game and we haven’t been able to get over that hump.”
Jabir also kept stressing the need to become mentally tougher for next season.
“I love our kids and their heart, but what I told them in the locker room [was], ‘There’s too much doubt, there’s too much second guessing,’” Jabir said. “We have shooters that need to shoot the ball and post players that need to finish around the hole. We aren’t playing to our optimum consistently.”
But the loss in the A-10 tournament might not be the Flyers last game. There is still an outside chance that the Flyers could be invited to the Women’s National Invitational Tournament (WNIT), and Jabir said that they would participate if they were invited.
Jabir, will look to try and avoid having another season like this in the future, and is taking the opportunity to step back and explore what might have caused the uncharacteristic season.
“We are going to evaluate every single thing that we do in the program, from the secretary to everything we do, and there’s going to be a reason for everything we do,” Jabir said. “We’re going to evaluate how we do everything and why we do it and how can we do it better.”
There is a silver lining that can be found in the team’s struggles this season, and that is the amount of experience younger players accrued by playing larger roles than might have been expected of them before.
“I’m really excited for next year, I can’t wait to get started,” Jabir said. “This is not going to happen again. We are not going to be in this situation again, not if I can help it.”
One of the players who really excelled in an unfamiliar role was freshman guard Lauren Cannatelli, who became a regular starter and contributor for the Flyers midway through the season.
Cannatelli finished the year averaging 10.7 points, 1.8 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game. She also shot 36 percent from 3-point range and 83.1 percent from the free throw line. The Atlantic 10 named her the conference’s Rookie of the Year as part of the league’s postseason awards.
“I didn’t really know what to expect [coming into the season],” Cannatelli told Flyer News. “Before the injuries I wasn’t really playing that much coming off the bench. Injuries happened and a lot of stuff happened in between and a lot of us had to step up our roles and step up as players, and [were] thrown into positions that we wouldn’t have been if there weren’t injuries, so a lot of us had to grow up quickly.”
Two other Flyers were recognized by the A-10 at the end of the season. Senior center Jodie Cornelie-Sigmundova was named the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year and earned a spot on the A-10 All-Defensive Team. Sophomore guard Jenna Burdette was named to the All-Conference Third Team.
Cornelie-Sigmundova led the conference with 3.61 blocks per game, which ranked third nationally. Burdette had a solid sophomore season, finishing with 11.2 points, 4.8 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game. She shot 40.4 percent from 3-point land and 81.3 percent from the free throw stripe.
The Flyers recently received some good news for next year, and that is that senior guard Kelley Austria will be returning for her fifth year. She was able to use a medical redshirt year this season after tearing her ACL in early December. Austria will surely provide some experience for and leadership next season as a fifth-year veteran.
“I think to be honest leadership is a maligned term,” Jabir said. “She’s a fifth year senior, she’s a guard, so people equate that with a certain kind of leadership. But I think someone like Kelley’s contribution will be on the court with how she defends, how she plays, how she calms the offense down. She’ll show leadership that way on the court. She was probably our most valuable player the last year or two, and she does so many of the little things that are really important.”
The Flyers will continue to look for younger players growing into their roles, along with new transfers eligible to play next season, and hopefully get back to the level of success they had before this season.
Photo: Junior center Saicha Grant-Allen puts up a shot during Dayton’s regular season finale, a 77-55 win over Fordham at UD Arena on Feb. 28. Grant-Allen will figure to be the Flyers’ first option in the post next season, as fellow center Jodie Cornelie-Sigmundova will be lost to graduation. Chris Santucci/Multmedia Editor