After a breakthrough season for Manhattan College women’s basketball—earning the program’s first postseason win in nine years—the Jaspers have returned to action in fine form, winning their first two games of the season. Five of last year’s seven seniors have graduated and headed out, but two, Sini Makela and Courtney Warley, have taken advantage of the additional year of eligibility granted by the NCAA to anyone who played under last season’s difficult conditions.
There are eight new players on the team, five freshmen and three transfers. Given the newness of the team, coach Heather Vulin is impressed by how well they’re playing together.
“An area of weakness last year was shooting percentage and scoring the ball consistently…and seeing improvement with such a new team is really exciting,” said Vulin. “Now, we’re heading down to Florida for a wonderful tournament [the Jaspers play on Friday and Saturday].”
Vulin described the players as both talented and motivated. Having fans in the stands is taking the team energy to a new level. Last year, Manhattan had only one non-conference game before the MAAC season started, so getting to travel and play teams like Florida Gulf Coast and Stetson is a huge return to normalcy.
“I pride myself on preparation for each of our opponents,” said Vulin. “To have so many new players in such key roles and key moments, is a little nerve-wracking for me, but they’re very talented.”
The players are upping their game on social media thanks to the ability to earn money from name, image and likeness. While no one on the team has any contracts, they are showing their social media savvy. “Especially for our program, social media is our best advertising that we have,” said Vulin.
One of the key returning players is junior guard and Bronx native Dee Dee Davis. “She’s been an absolute joy to coach,” said Vulin. “She was a big get for us when we got her as a freshman. We all knew that she is capable of what she’s doing now in terms of being an All Conference-type player. She’s off to a great start. She’s shooting the ball well.
“We expect our returning players, whether they’re starters or someone who comes off the bench, to really hold themselves to our Play Green standard, which means everything we do we do at a championship level.”