CUNYAC Rookie of the Year Nikki Fabozzi will be an anchor of the unit in 2012-13

The College of Staten Island women’s basketball team will have a new look in 2012-13, as former assistant coach Tim Shanahan takes over the reigns, and the new coaching staff will have a group split with seven returners and seven new faces, building excitement for what promises to be a season worth looking forward to.  The team opens up its season this Saturday, taking on Mount Saint Mary College at the Emerson College Tip-Off Tournament in Boston, Massachusetts.

When the Dolphins take the floor in 2012-13, it will be with the hopes of erasing the memory of a pair of sub-par seasons by typical CSI standards.  The team that has collected nine 20-win seasons over the last decade and a half have amassed only a 17-31 record over the last two campaigns, and while last year’s mark of 9-14 was a marked improvement both in the standings and the statistics, there is a still a way to go for the Dolphins to crack the upper echelon of the CUNYAC and beyond, according to the coaching staff.

“Right now the operative goal is getting everyone to gel, both as players and coaches,” tells Shanahan. “We are running a brand new system which is putting even our returners in a first-time experience, so that initial growth will be important.  So far things are working well and we are happy with the progress but it’s a long season.”

With the entire conference improving, and a bump in conference contests from 11 to 16 in 2012-13, Shanahan and new assistants Robin Dolan and Wayne Trivelli know that the key to the squad will be the experience level of its returning class.  Senior captains Katelyn Hepworth and Olivia Tierno will champion that resurgence, as the pair combined to average over 24 points and 13 rebounds per game a year ago.  Backcourt stalwart Jaclyn Tocco has already seen plenty of time at the point going into her junior season, and she will be complemented by sophomores Nikki Fabozzi, the CUNYAC and ECAC Metro NY/NJ Rookie of the Year, Danielle Kartalis, Jennifer Coughlan, and Sara Gugliucci.  With only one senior on the roster last year, all of the returning CSI talent played significantly in 2011-12, and that has Shanahan excited going in.

“The amount of playing experience our returning players have coming in has been tremendous to our approach in practice,”  Shanahan said.  “Being able to alleviate that game-time pressure is beneficial for a lot of our younger players, and conversely, we can bring that same type of competitiveness in practice, because even as younger players, our team has that type of veteran experience.”

As good as the coach expects the returning core to be with a full and improved season under their respective belts, it is the new faces that have the coach duly excited.  Freshman Lisa Galasso could assume a permanent position in the backcourt after missing her senior high school season to injury, while players like Jamie Pifalo and Victoria Gallinaro are earning high marks in preseason practice.  Adriane Reyes, Jackie Rupelli, Megan Myhre, and Karisa Crawford are additional faces that will give the Dolphins improved depth coming off of the bench.  One thing is for sure, the new faces should figure into the mix early and often on CSI’s road to continued success.

“I’m not going to be surprised if our first year players step up and assume large roles because the way our system is and the way we move the ball we are not relying on single players to score or play,”  said Shanahan.  “We are a team that can be interchangeable, and I feel we will need a nice balance to be successful regardless.”

Should all the parts fall into place, Shanahan feels his team could challenge any others in the CUNYAC.  With the goal squarely set on improving from opening day till the close of the season, Shanahan is not ruling out a strong run towards reestablishing CSI’s place among the conference’s elite.

“Obviously we would love to vie for the championship and we are confident we can compete towards that goal,”  he said.  “We’ve been chasing some teams in the conference recently and our goal this year is to do far more than simply compete.  With injuries and other intangibles it’s hard to make predictions, so we won’t, but we do have goals on this team, and one of them is to be right there in the championship mix at the end of the year.”

After Saturday’s opener, CSI will either play host Emerson or Green Mountain College in the second leg of the tourney (Sunday, 1/3pm).  The games will be broadcast live on CSI SportsNet via