Queens College women’s basketball team wants to capture back-to-back Eastern Conference Championships.
In a preseason poll, the Knights were predicted to win the conference championship. They received nine of the 11 votes and topped the list with 117 total points.
Head coach Elizabeth Naumovski enters her fifth season managing a team which won 20 games over the past two consecutive seasons. As a result, she is third in the all-time QC women’s basketball wins list with 54 victories.
Yet Naumovski does not think the preseason poll changed the team’s mentality for the upcoming season.
“The expectations are the same. We know we can contend for a conference championship again and we’re hoping to make it back to the NCAA tournament. We’ve always had the attitude of ‘it’s nice to be recognized,’ but at the end of the day we want to be first in March. We don’t really care about being in first in November, but it’s nice to be recognized,” Naumovski said.
With junior forward Madison Rowland, senior center Mackenzie Rowland, senior guard Kristen Korzevisnki and team captain Elisabeth Gully, the Knights are poised for another title run.
The team is coming off a successful 2014-2015 season, where they held a 22-8 record. Moreover, they held a 15-5 conference record and clinched the fifth seed in the East Region of the NCAA Division II tournament.
The poll predicted Madison Rowland as the Player of the Year. Last season for Rowlandwas memorable as she earned the East Coast Conference Player of the Year. In addition, she led all sophomores in the country in scoring and finished ninth overall in Division II with 20.9 points per game. She led the team, ECC and Division II in steals per game, 4.3, for the second consecutive season. She ranked top four in the ECC in scoring, steals, rebounds with 9.9 per game and assists with 4.1 per game.
Naumovski praised Madison Rowland’s stellar ability on the court.
“She’s very versatile and obviously a gifted athlete. She has a very high basketball IQ. This combination of the two allows us to do a lot of things with her,” Naumovski said.
Madison Rowland earned 18 double-doubles, which means double digit in two of the top five categories. In fact, she was 13th in the nation and was one of 13 players to post a triple-double, which she did against District of Columbia with 20 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assist. She previously accomplished triple-doubles in the past three seasons.
Gully admired Madison Rowland’s ability as a player and teammate.
“Madison is awesome. She’s so fun to play. It’s amazing what she can do on the court. She brings an amazing energy to our team. Watching her play is like watching a video game,” Gully said.
“She knows how to play well with our team too and is not selfish. She’s a great teammate to have.”
Over the summer, Gullyand Korzevinski played in Italy with the American International Sports Teams for 12 days in late May and early June. Both played against professional clubs.
The games in Italy helped Gully prepare for this season. She scored 20 points during a game in the tour, an impressive achievement.
“I think that I gained some more leadership skills because I played on a team with basically a bunch of strangers,” Gully said. “It forced me to take a leadership role. I think that will help me to be a stronger captain.”
Last season the Knights celebrated the 40th anniversary at Madison Square Garden. The team won 76-60 against Immaculata University. Madison Rowland finished with 28 points and 11 rebounds.
Naumovski described the experience at MSG as VIP treatment and changed the team’s perspective on the season.
“We had thousand of people at that game. When you play in front of a crowd like that, I think what you’ll face from that point forward will be easier. That made us ready for anything that we were to face in the future,” Naumovski said.
This season the team added four new players, including a third Rowland sister. Sophomore guard Merrick Rowland presence may help the Knights in an area they lack, three-point shooting.
“She’s here to fill that void that we had in the three pointers. She was a junior college athlete last year and made 99 three pointers, which is more than we made as a team. This gives us a threat that we haven’t had for two years,” Naumovski said.
Winning the ECC championship brought a lot of added pressure, but the Knights are not letting it slow them down.
“Coming into this season, we’ve all known that we’re a bigger target. This makes gives motivation for our opponents. But I don’t think that it’s changed our mindset in any way, shape or form /We know that it’s day-by- day, game-by-game,” Naumovski said.
The Knights open the season on the road against Philadelphia University on Nov. 14.