The College of Staten Island women’s basketball team will be tipping off their season on Saturday, hosting non-conference St. Joseph’s College (LI) at the Sports & Recreation Center at 2:00pm.  When they do they will carry high hopes for the new season.  Returning a talented nucleus from a year ago alongside some terrific new talent that will look to make a significant splash, CSI will have its sight set on a CUNYAC Championship run and building on its 17-12 season from a year ago.

The Dolphins have plenty of reasons to be excited.  CUNYAC Rookie of the Year Christina Pasaturo will return from a freshman campaign that saw her post 15.0 points and 6.2 rebounds per game a year ago.  The Dolphins will be without the services of injured star Victoria Crea, but back things up with the senior leadership of backcourt team Victoria Gallinaro, and juniors Jamie Pifalo and Frances Gonzalez, alongside the frontcourt of junior Alyssa Carlsen and emerging sophomore Samantha Flecker.

Head Coach Tim Shanahan knows his returning talent isn’t vast, but the heavy experience level will be the guiding force of the squad this season.

“We have great leadership on our team, and Victoria’s (Crea) injury certainly has not slowed that down, because she is as vocal as anyone, as are our co-captains Victoria (Gallinaro) and Jamie (Pifalo).  Our returning class has accepted a lot of responsibility and the leadership to date has been tremendous,” tells Shanahan.  “No one works harder and they give us a lead-by-example style that is infectious and goes a long way. A player like Christina (Pasaturo) just continues to impress and Alyssa (Carlsen) has also stepped up nicely so far.  I could not have asked for a better returning unit that provides great play with tremendous leadership.”

The excitement level is extremely abuzz thanks to a healthy seven new faces comprising the lineup.  Shanahan think all have the ability to impress, and the coaches set their sights square on getting bigger and stronger in the middle and the incoming class fits the billing.  Of the seven new stars, three are 5-foot-10 or taller, hoping to make up ground on the Dolphins’ -7.7 rebounding disadvantage from a season ago.  Look for 6-foot-1 Nicole Vierno to see immediate time, with Rosa Perone and Mary Nnamani gathering healthy minutes.

“Basketball coaches always look for size and we found it this year,” said the coach.  “Nicole is a true post player with great moves and surprising quickness.  I’m looking forward to seeing the development of players like Rosa and Mary.  They are physical, energetic and true team kids who are smart and ready to play.  We got bigger and stronger and it will translate on the court.”  

CSI’s backcourt will also be bolstered by incoming stars like Nicole Imbesi and Jacquelyn Cali.  The unit has the ability to distribute, take the ball to the basket efficiently, and offer superior defense, a calling card to last year’s team, which forced opponents into a stingy 36.2% shooting clip and just 60.6 points per game.

“One thing we do is run and push the ball up the floor and for that we have to use our roster and have flexibility with moving players in and out of the game,” said Shanahan.  “Our talent level has stepped up.  We have a broad range of talent and between all of our new back court players we have great basketball IQ, excellent defense, good physical play, and gifted athleticism.  It’s going to be a pleasure to have that depth in the front and back court this season.  It is definitely a spoil of riches.”  

Amidst a competitive schedule, Shanahan knows that the key to success is quite simple.  CSI will need to play fundamentally-sound basketball, limit turnovers and play the brand of basketball that constantly runs the floor and put pressure on opponents.  The Dolphins forced over 23 turnovers per game last year, and the coach hopes those mistakes will be capitalized on offensively.  The Dolphins were 9-0 last season when scoring 70+ points in regulation.  Look for the improvement in scoring offense to be a focus.

“We stress the up-tempo game obviously and it’s not an easy style of game to play,” Shanahan said.  “The most important thing for us is being able to play our kind of game and for us to be able to dictate the tempo.  If we can’t do that and we find ourselves playing games the way our opponent want to play them, then we will get into trouble.  Our game is speed-driven and tenacious, and we are always playing our best basketball when we do that and see how long our opponent can keep up with that style.”

The Dolphins will start the season with four-straight out-of-conference games before their CUNYAC opener at Hunter College on November 24.  CSI will subsequently play their next two conference games on the road as well before a three-game home stand to end December.  Thirteen of CSI’s final 14 games will be against conference opponents and will play seven of their final 9 contests on their home floor.

As always, the coach knows that the competition will serve them well going into the prospective postseason.  Aside from St. Joseph’s this weekend, CSI will have non-conference tests against Kean University, St. Joseph’s (BK), Keystone College, William Paterson University, and an ECAC Metro NY/NJ Tournament rematch with the College of New Rochelle.

“We make the schedule so that our players have the ability to play good basketball and stay competitive especially as the postseason draws near,” the coach noted.  “Ideally we want to win a championship, which is always our goal.  It would be nice to get over that semifinal hump this year.  That’s what you play for obviously.  It’s a long season, and we will never look ahead to anything.  It will be one game at a time and we will keep playing as long as possible.”

All of CSI’s home games will be broadcast this season on CSI SportsNet.  The video streaming service offers free SD viewing with an upgrade to HD viewing at $5 per contest.  Tickets to CSI Basketball games in 2015-16 is $5 for general admission and free for students, CSI faculty and staff, and children aged 12 and under.  PG-CLUE certification is offered for all CSI students.