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Molloy boasts more experience, confidence

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The grind of a challenging East Coast Conference schedule awaits a more experienced and confident Molloy College women’s basketball squad that’s off to a 5-1 start.

“It’s a marathon season, but I really like the mental approach and attitude we’re showing,” fourth-year head coach Joe Pellicane said. “We’re still young and the conference is very competitive. Six of the teams we’ll play went to the NCAA Tournament last season.”

The Lady Lions finished 2017-18 with a 4-14 mark against ECC rivals, 9-19 overall, with an extremely young roster. “We were the youngest team in America,” Pellicane said. “We had no seniors and eight freshmen, with five of them being only 17 years old. I wouldn’t call the season a disappointment because of the progress we made.”

Molloy’s starting lineup in each of the first six games featured four returnees, including three sophomores, and a key addition. Redshirt senior Tyra Harrison was on campus and at every practice last season but had to sit out all games due to NCAA transfer rules. She averaged over 18 points over two seasons at SUNY Farmingdale and was Skyline Conference Player of the Year as a true sophomore.

“She’s a joy to have in the program,” Pellicane said of Harrison, a Baldwin High School graduate who leads Molloy in scoring (13.8 ppg) through six games. “She plays hard every minute and leads by example,” he added. “She’s always been a tremendous scorer. She was at practice every day last season and made her presence felt and was a big help.”

Pellicane describes senior Ihnacinse Grady as one of the quickest guards in the conference who can make things happen at both ends of the floor. “She can score and rebound and will hawk her opponent throughout the game,” he said. “She makes winning plays.”

Grady averaged a shade below 10 points and 5 rebounds per game last season and is off to a similar start. She also posted 27 assists and 23 steals through the first six games to lead the team in both categories.

Melody Prichard, Gabriella Aspuru and Marthe Guirand all played major minutes as freshmen and continue to progress, Pellicane said. They’re all in the starting lineup nowadays.

Prichard averaged 10.7 points a season ago and is off to a fine start, averaging 10.2 while shooting a team-best 48 percent from the field and 100 percent (11-for-11) from the line. She scored a team-high 16 points Dec. 1 as Molloy upped its winning streak to five in a row with a 54-47 victory over Caldwell. “She’s a multi-skilled player who can score and takes a lot of pride in defense,” Pellicane said.

Aspuru averaged 7.9 points and 7.6 rebounds. “Going back to high school, she’s filled up the stat sheet,” Pellicane said. “She gives us rebounds, points and blocks. She’s a winner who’s only going to keep getting better.”

Guirand is a 6-foot-1 forward and one of the top rebounders in the ECC, Pellicane said. She averaged 7.4 points and 6.8 boards last winter and has ripped down 53 rebounds (8.8 per game) so far.

Junior forward Jenna Silletti and junior guard Kathryn Gibson are contributing in a big way off the bench, Pellicane said, and averaging more than 20 minutes per game. They’re averaging 7.5 and 7.3 points, respectively. Silletti is a former Long Island Lutheran star and an accurate passer who makes everyone around her better, the coach noted, while Gibson is all energy. “Both had to deal with preseason injuries,” Pellicane said. “They’ve played well and provided invaluable leadership.”

Molloy was picked sixth in the ECC preseason poll, which had LIU Post at the top.

“The ECC is a plus-15 in non-league games, which is a good yardstick,” Pellicane said. “We’re still a young team. Balance is a very important word in sports and we need to share the ball and defend.”