Blogs > The Full-Court Press

Welcome back to the Trentonian's Full-Court Press blog. Yes, we're still alive, and with the 2015-16 season rapidly approaching, it's time to fire up the old blog for another season. Check back here throughout the year for updates on all things Rider and Princeton, including coverage of both the MAAC and Ivy League. Feel free to drop me a line on twitter @kj_franko ( or email

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Princeton women now the hunters in Ivy chase

Senior guard Blake Dietrick. (Jackie Schear Photo)

@nickperuffo on Twitter

PRINCETON >> The Princeton women enter this season in the unfamiliar position of the hunter rather than the hunted.

After winning four consecutive Ivy Leagues titles from 2010 to 2013, the Tigers came up a game short last season, losing to Penn in the final game of the season in a de facto league championship game. Though they went on to notch the first true postseason win in program history by beating Virginia Commonwealth in the WNIT, it was cold consolation.

“They’ve never lacked effort, but you can get numb to winning, like ‘that’s what we do here,’” coach Courtney Banghart said at the team’s media day. “We’ve proven that isn’t what we do here, it’s what we earn here. We didn’t earn it last year.”
The main difference between last year’s team, which finished 21-9 and 11-3 in the Ivy, and those of the championship runs was on the defensive end. Those four years coincided with the careers of guard Lauren Polanksy and forward Niveen Rasheed, who were both elite defensive players at their position. Last year, the Tigers led the league in points per game (75.7), but were uncharacteristically third in defense (64.1). They allowed 80 points in their loss to the Quakers.

“I don’t think last year we played good enough defensively, so I’ve focused only on that end,” Banghart said. “What we do on offense, I don’t care. We are going to get stops this year.”

That effort figures to start with senior point guard Blake Dietrick, who was named first team All-Ivy last season. Dietrick is a prolific scorer, averaging 14.1 points per game, but is aiming to be the same sort of destructive, full-court defensive force that Polansky was.

“I really want to be a defensive presence,” Dietrick said. “Our goal is to pressure the ball 94 feet this year, like LP in the olden days, and drive people crazy.”

While the Tigers weren’t too interested in talking about the offensive end, junior guard Michelle Miller also emerged as one of the team’s primary scoring threats. Over the last four games of the year she averaged nearly 20 points, including a 34-point effort in the Tigers’ season-ending loss at Seton Hall.

“She’s special,” Banghart said. “She can score in a lot of ways. She’s got a gentle nature as a human, but offensively her killer instinct has improved as she’s gotten older. We’re focusing on the defensive end, but that kid can score.”

Like Dietrick, Miller is looking to be more of a force on the defensive end.

“We are all really driven this year and hungry to get the league title back, and that’s really changed our mentality,” she said.

Other key upperclassmen for the Tigers include senior forward Mariah Smith (who missed most of last season with a stress fracture in her right foot), as well as a strong junior class that includes wing Annie Tarakchian, guard Amanda Berntsen and forwards Alex Wheatley and Taylor Williams.

Sophomores Vanessa Smith, Taylor Brown and Jackie Reyneke also contributed last year. Banghart sounded optimistic about the freshman class, which includes a prominent Princeton name: Leslie Robinson. Robinson’s father Craig, now the head coach at Oregon State, was a two-time Ivy Player of the Year for the Tigers.

That, however, drastically undersells her family ties. She’s also the niece of Barack and Michelle Obama.

“Leslie comes at it honestly,” Banghart said. “You’ll see her early.”

The Tigers open up the season at Pittsburgh Friday, and will also play Wake Forest, Georgetown and Michigan over their tough non-conference slate. Like the men, they’ll begin Ivy play Jan. 10 against Penn.

That is, defending league champion Penn.

“It’s a different mentality, chasing the title instead of protecting the title,” Banghart said. “That’s something that’s clearly different, and something this program hasn’t had in a few years.”


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home