The Collegian
Thursday, May 23, 2024

OPINION: Now is the time for Spiders women’s basketball

<p>Graphic by Annie Scalet/The Collegian</p>

Graphic by Annie Scalet/The Collegian

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article do not reflect those of The Collegian.

Things have been building within the University of Richmond women’s basketball program for a few years now, and after a 21-11 finish last season, coupled with an appearance in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament, I believe now is the time for Spiders women’s basketball to take the next step and cross that threshold into unparalleled success.

Since 2020, the Spiders have posted three consecutive seasons with a winning record. 

The team finished 13-9 during the 2020-2021 season with a quarterfinals round exit in the Atlantic 10 tournament; 16-14 during the 2021-2022 season with a second round exit in the A-10 tournament; and then 21-11 this past season, where the team lost in the A-10 semifinals but ultimately advanced to the second round of the WNIT. 

For three straight years, the team has had more wins in each of its subsequent seasons. And after last year, with two games on a more national stage under the program’s belt, the Spiders can only improve.

It started in 2020, when now-seniors forward Addie Budnik and guards Siobhan Ryan and Grace Townsend joined the program. Despite joining in the midst of a global pandemic, these three especially have been the backbone of the program for the last couple seasons. 

In 84 games, 79 of which she has started, Budnik has scored 1,106 points, averaged 13.2 points per game over three seasons, and has tallied 183 assists, 203 blocks and 69 steals. In her first season as a Spider, Budnik won A-10 Rookie of the Year and made the A-10 All-Rookie Team, and in her sophomore and junior seasons, Budnik made the A-10’s Second Team All-Conference

As for Ryan and Townsend, the duo has held down the backcourt for the Spiders. 

In 84 games, Ryan has averaged 7.6 points per game, scored 641 points and picked up 114 assists as well as 35 steals. Townsend, who has played in 83 games, has averaged 9.3 points per game and has totaled 775 points, 376 assists and 104 steals. 

To balance out the senior class, guard Kylee Lewandowski has scored 95 points in 56 games for the Spiders. She brings international experience with her this season, as she played in Mongolia with the FIBA (International Basketball Federation) U23 3x3 basketball team in September. 

Junior forward Katie Hill’s play has proven solid for the program, as she started in 31 of 32 games last season and averaged 9.3 points per game as the lone third-year player on the squad. 

Now-sophomore forward Maggie Doogan established herself as the Spiders’ first-year phenom last season, starting 15 out of 25 games, making both the A-10 All-Rookie Team and A-10 All-Conference Third Team, and averaging 11.5 points and 6 rebounds per game. Doogan scored 288 points and grabbed 151 boards in her first year for UR. 

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Sophomore guards Rachel Ullstrom and Torin Rogers also provided some strong minutes off the bench for the Spiders. In 32 games, Ullstrom averaged 6.4 points per game and tallied 205 points on the year. Ullstrom also garnered A-10 Rookie of the Week honors once during the season.

Rogers played in 25 games, scoring 33 points and picking up 24 rebounds. 

The Spiders also added some veteran leadership to help their squad this season. 

Forward Anna Camden, who averaged 5.3 points across four seasons at Penn State University, announced her commitment to UR April 25 for her graduate season. Unfortunately, she suffered a torn ACL early on in the workout process this summer, so she will miss the 2023-2024 season. However, Camden’s experience having played at a Big Ten Conference school will prove invaluable in UR’s locker room.

UR also added graduate guard Faye Parker and graduate forward Laren VanArsdale, two more graduate students who spent the last four seasons at the University of Pennsylvania and Hampton University respectively. Parker averaged 1 point per game in three seasons at UPenn — one season having been erased due to the pandemic — and VanArsdale averaged 13.3 points per game over four seasons at Hampton. 

The Spiders also have sophomore forward Jada Green coming up on her second year with the team. She has yet to play a game in a UR uniform as she was out with an injury last year. 

And finally, as for the newbies, the Spiders added three first-years, forward Melissa Mwanza, guard Ally Sweeney and forward Courtney Swider to round out UR’s roster of 15. 

Head Coach Aaron Roussell is entering his fifth year with the program and will look to improve upon the team’s all-time record under his leadership, which currently sits at 377-173. 

With weapons on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, veteran leadership and the perfect balance between newcomers and returners, I believe the team has the perfect concoction of what an A-10 college program needs to have to win. 

As such, Spider women’s basketball’s time to strike is now, and they will have their first opportunity to do so away against Duke University at 11 a.m. Nov. 6 at Cameron Indoor Stadium. 

Contact sports editor Jimmy James at jimmy.james@richmond.edu.

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