By David Borne | Staff Writer
The 2015-16 season for the Duquesne Dukes women’s basketball team was one they will never forget. However, with the 2016-17 season rapidly approaching, the team must move on from their best season in program history, and start a new journey toward reaching the NCAA Tournament.
Coach Dan Burt will be back for his fourth season with the Dukes after signing an eight-year extension with the school this past summer. He enters the year with a 70-31 record. Burt’s resume in his time at Duquesne includes leading the team to a record 28 wins and first ever win in the NCAA tournament last season, as well as back-to-back WNIT appearances in the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons.
Burt is confident in his team’s ability to compete with the nation’s top talent. For that reason, the team will take on out of conference opponents Ohio State, St. John’s, Maryland and Pitt before A-10 Conference play begins in January.
“We’re fearless, self motivated and smart,” Burt said. “We believe we’re a good basketball team. The month of November is going to be very difficult, though. We have to survive November; if we are able to do that, I think we are going to become a very good basketball team in December, January and March. We’re fearless.”
With the graduation of last season’s leading scorers April Robinson and Deva’Nyar Workman, the team will rely on returning senior Amadea Szamosi, as well as sophomores Chassidy Omogrosso and Kadri-Ann Lass, to lead the Dukes offense.
The trio was responsible for 31.2 points per game last season, but with their expanded role, they should see bigger numbers.
Only a sophomore, Omogrosso was voted a team captain by her teammates. The leadership role is something that she is proud of, and she believes the experience she gained last season made will help her this year.
“My experience from last season helped me understand what it is like to play at this level and what to expect on the court,” Omogrosso said. “I played with a lot of experienced players last year as well which helped make me grow as a player. That experience will help me lead my teammates to be ready for this year.”
The Dukes have plenty of talent coming in this season. Four freshmen join the team this season: Nina Aho, Halle Bovell, Anie-Pier Samson and Kiersten Elliott.
Aho, a point guard from Hungary, averaged 8.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game at the 2015 U18 European Women’s Championships.
Samson and Bovell both join the Dukes after playing high school ball in Canada. Samson is a strong, 6-foot-2 guard with a very good shooting range. As for Bovell, she was named Most Valuable Player at the Canada Basketball National Championships for the Team Ontario U17 Girls team.
Elliot is from Glenshaw, Pa. and led Vincentian Academy to four straight WPIAL Class A championships. Elliott averaged 11.8 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.3 steals, 2.0 assists and 1.5 blocks as a senior.
Duquesne also adds forward Judith Sole, who is a transfer from Robert Morris. Sole averaged 6.o points and 5.6 rebounds as a sophomore at Robert Morris, but she had to sit out the 2015-16 season due to NCAA transfer rules. She is also the first player in Duquesne history from Spain.
Duquesne is projected to finish second, tied with Dayton in the A-10. The committee voted Saint Louis as its preseason favorite to win the conference. Both Kadri-Ann Lass and Amadea Szamosi are Preseason All-Conference Selections.
Along with Brianna Thomas, Szamosi is one of the two seniors on the roster this season. When asked what her expectations were for the season, Szamosi mentioned that the team will give their full effort at all times.
“I think our expectation is to never have any regrets and to perform to the best of our ability and keep improving every day,” Szamosi said. “I think if we have that mentality and we keep improving every day forward we can be very successful.”
The Dukes open up their 2016-17 campaign on the road against Ohio State on Nov. 11. The Buckeyes enter the season ranked seventh in the AP Top 25 Poll, so the matchup will be a very early test for the young Dukes team.