Energized Women’s Basketball Program Ready to Score Big

After finishing out last year with a 15-11 record, the women’s basketball team is looking to keep the victories coming, starting with its season opener against Medgar Evers College tomorrow.

Head coach Mike Eineker said he is looking forward to seeing how the team he built from the ground up performs in his fifth year of coaching. Eineker started the program’s turnaround, transforming a team that posted four wins the year before he started to a team that tallied 15 wins two years in a row.

“The team I inherited was not too good,” Eineker said. “It was a struggle. We went from being really bad to becoming an extremely competitive team in our division.”

The girls have become, according to Eineker, “a real threat to the top teams” in recent years, posting a 5-8 record in the New Jersey Athletic Conference last year and continuously fighting for a high spot in the postseason rankings. This year, however, Eineker once again faces some obstacles that could affect the team’s success.

Injuries have plagued the team throughout the preseason. One of the team’s best players, sophomore Jackie Jerkovich, has sat out most preseason practices due to a recurring back injury. Losing such an important part of the team-especially since the rest of the squad consists of nine new players-worries Eineker for the upcoming game.

“Losing Jackie makes me nervous about the depth of our team,” Eineker said. “I need replacements, but the new kids still have a lot to learn.”

Adding these players to the roster brings the roster total to 17, an unusually large lineup for a game in which only five are on the court at a time. Eineker’s plan is to increase the “depth” of his squad so almost every substitute is just as strong as the starter she replaces. But with only a couple weeks of practice under their belts, the incoming freshmen and transfers are still getting used to program, leading Eineker to wonder if they will be ready in time.

The eight returners, on the other hand, have stepped up and showed they are ready for their first game. Eineker said that senior Faith Flannery has been the overall standout, “playing really well, acting like a captain and leading the team.” Flannery has been a high scorer in multiple pre-season scrimmages, using her experience on the court to play aggressively and intelligently. Eineker says she “needs to keep this up,” and if she continues performing as she is now she could be looking at “one of her best seasons to date.”

Jerkovich, whose injury could prevent her from playing in their opener tomorrow, is another player recognized by Eineker.

“She’s one of my best, if not my best, player on the team this year,” he added.

Though Eineker is focusing on the season one game at a time, he says that “the NJAC tournament is always in the back of our minds.” He knows his team has the potential to be great, and this year is the time to make something happen. The biggest advantage they have versus last year is the close bond they have all formed.

“Last year, not all the girls got along,” said Eineker, “but this year there is a great chemistry throughout the whole squad. They’re all great players, and I’ve got myself good mix of kids.”