Caitlin Bopp poised for breakout season
LAWRENCEVILLE — Every once in a while a coach gets the feeling that a player is on the cusp of a breakout season.
For Rider boss Lynn Milligan, this is the year for senior center Caitlin Bopp.
Bopp is coming off a season in which she averaged 9.2 points and 7.3 rebounds per game in 25 appearances.
“She’s arguably one of the top post players in our league,” Milligan said. “She’s going to rebound for you, she’s going to score and she obviously has great size. She set herself some really high goals, but I think this could be one of those breakout senior years for her.
“She’s had a steady career, but every once in a while you get that senior that just gets it and blows up. I think Caitlin is on her way to doing that.”
Bopp spent a week over the summer abroad, playing with a team from the Global Sports Academy. The squad was made up of Division I players and took on teams from Belgium, France and Germany over the course of the week.
Bopp’s team went 5-0.
“It was amazing,” Bopp said of her experience. “We really lucked out because all of the girls bonded really well, which I was surprised with because we didn’t know each other.
“The man in charge of it said watching our team play, it looked like we had been playing for years and the guys team looked like you just put together Division I players, and it was an enjoyable experience watching us play. That was great to hear.”
But now that she’s back in Lawrenceville there are other matters at hand. Like trying to improve on an 11-19 campaign that included a 3-15 conference record.
“We have been doubted every year by people and I’ve dealt with that for three years, and I’m not dealing with it for my fourth year. I’m sick of it,” Bopp said. “I’m just ready to prove everyone wrong, and we’re going to do it this year.”
The Broncs return junior MyNeshia McKenzie, who was a Third Team All-League selection after leading the conference in rebounding (9.1) as a sophomore and senior Sironda Chambers, who averaged 10 points per game, but played in just 19 games.
“We’re a veteran team this year and we haven’t had that in a while,” Milligan said. “Our seniors and juniors have played a lot of minutes for us. The seniors are focused on what they want to accomplish and they have set their expectations very high.”
Rider opens the season Nov. 9 on the road at Stony Brook. The home opener is three days later against NJIT.
The Broncs went 8-3 in non-league play last season, but couldn’t translate that into conference success.
“We faced a lot of injuries, but I don’t want to use that as an excuse, you never really should,” Bopp said. “We have to deal with adversity when it pops up and not let it affect how we play.”
Bopp admitted all the losing frustrates her — Rider is 20-70 through her first three years — but she’s determined to change that in this her final season.
“No team want to have it on them that people think of them as a losing team,” she said. “That’s never anything that anyone wants and like I said, it’s my fourth year and all of us as seniors, we don’t want that to be the way the program is as we’re leaving. We want to leave some sort of legacy, something that’s great for the incoming players.”
Lashay Banks, a transfer from Cincinnati, has joined Rider this season.
Banks, who is from Philadelphia and played at Prep Charter, will sit out this year, per NCAA rules.
Banks made 21 appearances last season for the Bearcats, scoring a career-best six points against Toledo. She will have two years of eligibility remaining.