Although the New York Liberty lost a close preseason game to the reigning WNBA Champions, the Minnesota Lynx, 77–74, fans had a chance to see the newest names on the roster up close because the game was played at Levien Gymnasium at Columbia University. It was a special event, open only to season ticket holders.
“It’s awesome to bring it to the season ticket holders’ home so we can come out and have fun in our community,” said Natalie Leary. “[Being so close to the court] makes it more relatable.”
“It’s an amazing experience. It’s very intimate, family like,” said Jama Clark, a season ticket holder for three years whose favorite Liberty player is Brittany Boyd.
The Liberty has had a relationship with Columbia for several years. Over the winter, Teresa Weatherspoon, director of player development, came to a women’s basketball team practice. Levien seemed like a great place to host a preseason game. Columbia’s recently named head coach, Megan Griffith, has already been to a Liberty practice.
“Our partnerships with the schools (including Fordham and Seton Hall) in general is all about coming together as women’s basketball stakeholders,” said Kristin Bernert, Liberty senior vice president of business operations. “The more that we work together to promote the city’s game, the better we’re all going to be.”
Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer focused on how various players fit in the lineup. Cuts need to be made before opening day. The Liberty opens on the road against the Washington Mystics May 14 and have their home opener at Madison Square Garden May 15 against the Dallas Wings.
“You want to give people a lot of time to see what they can do,” Laimbeer said. “If they retain information from practice to the games. How they compete. Can they guard?”
Guard Shavonte Zellous, signed as a free agent during the off-season, and second year center Kiah Stokes did not play because of injury. Guard Shoni Schimmel, recently acquired in a trade with the Atlanta Dream, did play and hit a big three-pointer. Guard Sugar Rodgers led all scorers with 22 points.
“It was awesome to play here because when you have your fans supporting you, it’s a great feeling to go out there and play,” said Schimmel.