KUTZTOWN – Fresh off last season’s historic campaign, the Kutztown University women’s basketball team looks to continue its climb to the top of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) mountain as it gears up for the 2018-19 slate.
Winners of 18 games in 2017-18, the program’s most since 2009-10, KU returns 80.1 percent of its scoring and four of its five starters from last season. Kutztown advanced to the PSAC quarterfinals for the first time since 2014-15, winning its first round home game against Bloomsburg.
Coupling last season’s success with the experience and talent that the Golden Bears return, head coach Janet Malouf and Co. has even higher aspirations for 2018-19.
“Last year, we said we really wanted to win that first round game and have an improved record, of which we both accomplished” said Malouf. “As for this year, we have our sights set, still on that continuous improvement, and on taking that next step, pushing to get into the PSAC Final Four.”
The strong core which Kutztown returns this year has certainly caught the attention of its fellow-PSAC members as KU was selected first in the PSAC Eastern Division’s Preseason Poll on Oct. 25, the first time
in school history it has earned the top spot. The Golden Bears were also selected ninth in the Preseason D2SIDA Atlantic Region Poll on Oct. 29.
Improvement continues to be the message sent by both Malouf and Assistant Coach Justin Hallman as their group prepares for the grind of the collegiate basketball season.
“We have seen slow and steady improvement from the collection of our returners across the board,” noted Malouf. “With a year of college basketball now under the belts of our strong freshmen class and this being the second year with this group together, we are very excited to see this team’s progression. It is also important to note that, not only have the players continued to improve, but that, because of that, we are able to enhance what we do from a coaching perspective as they continue to better understand our system and style of play.”
Kutztown will boast an experienced and versatile group headed into this season. The Golden Bears’ four returning starters, Rylee Derr, Taylor Thames, Gabbi Wright and Karen Lapkiewicz, will certainly be looked to for continued production after showing consistent improvement throughout last season. Derr, a second team All-PSAC selection last season whom averaged a team-high 13.6 ppg, is back for her second season in Maroon and Gold as the reigning-PSAC leader in 3-PTs made per game (2.9). As a team, the Golden Bears attempted the second-most triples (675) in the PSAC last season, making the third-most (223).
Thames led KU in assists per game with 2.6 apg and averaged 7.4 ppg as the main ball-handler for the KU attack. Wright will take an increased role in the paint, with the loss of Keifonna Ferguson, after averaging 6.4 ppg and 3.1 rpg in her sophomore season. Lapkiewicz, Kutztown’s do-it-all wing, posted 7.5 ppg, 2.0 apg and 3.4 rpg last year, in what was a breakout sophomore campaign.
Even with this strong cohort of returning starters, fans can still expect to see contributions up-and-down the lineup. KU brings back outstanding freshmen sharpshooters Alexis Smith and Zoe Zerman to couple with Derr as its formidable sophomore-trio. Senior Kalee Fuegel will also play a crucial role, especially on the defensive end, as will Saint Peter’s transfer Brianna Tarabocchia. Caroline Stauffer, Kaylan Jackson and Alex Leader along with true-freshmen Presley Berryhill and Lyndsay Craig will also be relied upon for Malouf’s squad which could go 13-deep in any given game.
The Maroon and Gold have already been tested in their two exhibition games, facing off with Division-I opponents No. 9 University of Maryland and Lehigh University. Kutztown now turns its attention to its first official weekend of competition on Nov. 9-10, playing host to the KU Conference Challenge which will include matchups with in-region opponents Fayetteville State University and Lincoln (PA) University. The Golden Bears will then continue their non-conference schedule away from home, taking on Georgian Court on Nov. 14 before making a trip to Texas for three contests in the Lone Star State.
Kutztown will take on Saint Edward’s University in Austin on Nov. 20 followed by a short trip to San Antonio for games with Lubbock Christian University and St. Mary’s (TX) University on Nov. 23-24, respectively. The Maroon and Gold’s PSAC slate will then begin as they take on No. 18 Indiana (PA) at home on Dec. 1. The first round of the PSAC Playoffs will be on Mar. 4 with the quarterfinals set for Mar. 6, both of which will be played on the highest-seed’s home floor. The semifinals and PSAC Championship will then be hosted by the highest-remaining seed in the East on Mar. 9-10, respectively.
For the second consecutive season, fans will be able to follow all KU’s PSAC contests via live web-stream on the PSAC Network through Kutztown University’s StretchInternet portal and live stats, which are accessible on www.kubears.com.