Seniors’ impact raises expectations of Dukes

Pat Higgins | Asst. Sports Editor

Duke Archive Vanessa Abel is one of four seniors leaving Duquesne from the women’s basketball program.
Duke Archive
Vanessa Abel is one of four seniors leaving Duquesne from the women’s basketball program.

Despite wrapping up its season on a sour note after being snubbed by the selection committee in the Women’s NCAA Championship, the women’s basketball team has plenty to be proud of looking back on their season.
A program that has continued to build on successes in Coach Suzie McConnell-Serio’s tenure, the team finished with a 24-8 record (11-3 in-conference), both of which are the most wins in the program’s history. This year’s senior class (Jocelyn Floyd, Vanessa Abel, Ahjah Hall, and Carly Vendemia) will go down as the winningest class in program history.
In addition to the team’s success as a whole, senior Jocelyn Floyd, who led the nation in steals, earned a spot on the First-Team All-Defensive Team and was named Atlantic-10 Defensive Player of the Year. Wumi Agunbiade was named First-Team All-Conference as well.
Heading into offseason workouts, already in preparation for next year, McConnell-Serio said she won’t remember one specific moment or player from this team.
What will stick with her most is the chemistry and camaraderie the team developed playing and eating together, traveling on the road and working through both triumphs and struggles. She said she’ll remember the team’s relentlessness and ability to work through adversity the most.
“We have been faced with every situation throughout the season,” she said. “They never quit, they always believed in themselves, they always believed in each other. Just the travel, the meals that we had together, the bus rides, being in a hotel. Just everything that you go through throughout the season, you make memories. The time that you spend together is most memorable for me.”
McConell-Serio was especially proud of the mark this senior class left on the program, and mentioned the particularly special moment about midway through the season when Abel received the call that she had one more year of eligibility. If you watched this team all year, it was clear that it was the seniors who led by example, specifically in the first round of the WNIT against Akron, when Floyd and Abel essentially took over in the final minutes of the second half to carry the team to a narrow victory over the Zips.
Their effort and leadership did not go unnoticed.
“They certainly have left their mark on this program,” McConnell-Serio said. “They just have taken this team to a new level, they’ve continued to set the expectations higher. We hope that that gets beaten every year, but they have definitely raised the standards here both on the court and in the classroom.”
Although their time as players at Duquesne is over, they’ve certainly raised the bar for the program in more ways than one, something that will resonate with the players who will return from this year’s team and recruits in the future.
After losing to Bowling Green in the second round of play in the WNIT, McConnell-Serio said preparation for the next season starts immediately after the current season ends. The team was already back on the court and in the weight room Tuesday to improve individually and to start building for next year.
And though the senior’s departure will leave a temporary void in the program for now, the future looks bright for this team. They’ll bring back three of five starters, and welcome transfers Olivia Bresnahan and Brianna Thomas as well as five freshmen next season, all of whom will have an opportunity to make an impact right away, according to McConell-Serio.
Anytime you lose three of your best players to graduation, the team must adapt and get better to minimize the void their absence will bring. But the standards Floyd, Abel, Hall and Vendemia set in their four years will do much more good in the future than their absence will do in the early stages of the 2013-2014 season.
Records are meant to be broken, and if next year’s class makes anywhere close to the impact that this year’s seniors did in their tenure at Duquesne, the future looks promising for this program. As they continue to improve, the team looks to make the next step as a premiere team both in the Atlantic-10 and on the national stage.