Adam Lindner | Sports Editor
Nov. 12, 2020
The Atlantic 10 released its annual women’s basketball preseason predictions on Monday, Nov. 9, with two Duquesne players named to all-conference teams and the team slotted to finish in the top half of the league’s standings.
Senior guard Libby Bazelak, a 2019-20 All-Conference Second Team honoree, was selected to both the Preseason All-Conference First Team and Preseason All-Defensive Team. Redshirt senior center Laia Solé, second on the team in scoring with 11.8 points per game in 2019-20, was named to the Preseason All-Conference Second Team.
The Dukes were picked by the league’s 14 head coaches to finish tied for fourth alongside Davidson and Fordham, which also received 140 points in the poll. VCU was named the conference’s favorite, followed by Dayton at No. 2 and Saint Louis third.
VCU received 10 first-place votes and 185 overall points in the poll, with Dayton (two), Saint Louis (one) and Duquesne (one) receiving the poll’s remaining first-place votes.
“Polls are polls,” Head Coach Dan Burt said in a team release. “We believe we are capable of winning the league if we maintain a strong mental resiliency. Our talent has great depth, and we have size and versatility at every position. We can play both small and big depending on the situation.”
Bazelak, a native of Kettering, Ohio, led Duquesne in scoring (13.2 points per game), rebounding (6.5 per game) and assists (3.9 per game) last season, becoming the first Duke to lead the team in all three categories since program legend Korie Hlede did it in the late 1990s. Bazelak’s 1.3 steals per game also led the team, and her 44.4% 3-point percentage ranked 11th in the nation.
“Libby richly deserves being recognized on the Preseason Atlantic 10 First Team,” Burt said. “Her on-court play and leadership last year was outstanding and we expect even more this season.
“We believe she is the best pure point guard in the Atlantic 10.”
Burt said he was disappointed Bazelak didn’t land on the All-Conference First Team at the conclusion of last season, praising her efficiency.
“We were disappointed she wasn’t on the first team. No wasted movements, no wasted reps.”
Solé, who transferred to Duquesne after beginning her collegiate career at Maine, led Duquesne in field goal percentage last year with a 47.1% mark, good for seventh-best in the conference as a whole. A marvel on the offensive side of the court, Solé posted a 38-point outing against Saint Francis last season on Dec. 15, which was the most by a Duquesne player in 21 seasons. Additionally, she posted four games in which she scored 20-plus points last season.
Burt offered high praise for his starting center, as well.
“We believe that Laia is the best offensive post player in the A-10,” Burt said in the release. “She has raised her level of play over the summer, and we are expecting a big year from her.”
Beyond Bazelak and Solé, the Dukes welcome back a steady group of veteran players, including sophomore Amaya Hamilton, senior guard Amanda Kalin and sophomore center Precious Johnson.
Hamilton, a 6-foot-2 guard/forward, posted 20.6 minutes per game as a true freshman in 2019-20, including a team-high 17-point effort against Pitt on Nov. 23.
Kalin was the Dukes’ third-leading scorer last season (10.2 points a game), trailing only Bazelak and Solé. She also led the team in blocks, and figures to bolster Duquesne’s stable of guards behind Bazelak. Johnson was tied for second on last year’s team in blocks and averaged 4.8 points per game during her freshman year.
The Dukes, who finished last season with a 20-11 record and a 9-7 mark in the A-10, fell to Fordham in the conference quarterfinals on March 6, mere days before sports were canceled across the country due to the outbreak of COVID-19.
The team hasn’t won an A-10 regular season title since 2016; that season, the Dukes went on to defeat Seton Hall, 97-76, in the NCAA Tournament, before falling to eventual national champion Connecticut in the second round.
The 2015-16 team is the last Duquesne team to appear in the NCAA Tournament.
In other program news, a top 2021 recruit signed with the team on Wednesday, giving Burt a major recruiting victory.
Liv Westphal, a 5-foot-10 senior guard at nearby Bethel Park High School, signed a National Letter of Intent with the team.
Westphal is ranked as a four-star recruit and the top 2021 player in Pennsylvania by espnW. Ranked 37th among 2021 guards, espnW lists Westphal as the No. 90 overall prospect in the 2021 class.