Talent, scoring ability, athleticism, dangerous, combination of perimeter and inside players. That’s the way Jenny Palmateer, Monmouth women’s head basketball coach, talked about Manhattan College.
Clichés are always a no-no whenever writing journalism but this one in particular perfectly describes the last year for Manhattan: “What a difference a year makes…” No, really. For the entire 30 game schedule in ‘14-‘15, it only managed to come away with three wins. Three wins.
“Last year, we were a very young and inexperienced basketball team,” John Olenowski, Manhattan head women’s basketball coach, said.
Fast-forward to ’15-’16. It has triple its win total, 10, and recently went on a three-game win streak, beating Iona — No. 1 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, 63-56; Saint Peter’s, 64-47; and Rider, 74-70.
“This year we’ve got tremendous depth with our team,” Olenowski said. “We’re experienced and everybody has raised their game up a level. We’re playing really solid, good basketball.”
“I mean, last year we only had three wins overall,” Kayla Grimme, Manhattan sophomore center, said. “So to have a three-game winning streak was a nice wake-up call to show what we can actually do and what we’re capable of later on.”
What has been the difference this season compared to last for Grimme and Nyasha Irizarry are Olenowski’s stress on defense; better team chemistry; and the additions of James Madison University transfers Amani Tatum, sophomore guard, and Crystal Ross, senior center.
“In some games, there has been moments where our talent and everyone is playing at their full potential,” Grimme said, “and I’ve taken a couple of steps back and said, ‘Wow, we can be really good.’ If we can all hone that potential all at once and all of us playing whenever it matters as it winds down until the MAAC tournament, we can be really good.”
“We do things games sometimes that we thought we couldn’t really do,” Irizarry said. “When it comes out we say, ‘We got to keep this going.’”
In its last five games, Manhattan has a 4-1 record. The last win coming in a statement kind of game against Canisius, it was a 22-point victory of dominance on both ends of the court, 77-55. And overall on the season, Manhattan is right in the middle of the every other team, sitting fifth in the MAAC at 10-11.
“Any team can beat anybody on any given day,” Palmateer said. “That makes for some really, really great games. You have to bring you’re A-game every game: be a team that can limit mistakes, be solid and be consistent because it doesn’t take much to wind up on the wrong end of the win-loss column. That makes it really fun. You can throw seedings out the window. It’s been a great challenge.”