Lehigh women’s basketball started off their 2021-2022 season with a win against East Stroudsburg University on Nov. 9.
The Mountain Hawks won 82-35 in a sold out Grace Hall.
Coach Sue Troyan said the desire to host the game in Grace Hall was to engage freshmen and sophomores who don’t know a lot about basketball.
“When I started 34 years ago as a graduate assistant, all of our games were in Grace Hall,” Troyan said. “We want to expose the freshmen and sophomores to what the Lehigh Basketball experience is with the hope that they have fun and enjoy the atmosphere.”
The 2021 Patriot League Champions were the preseason pick to win the Patriot League again, and will look to the leadership of the upperclassmen.
Coach Troyan emphasized that her seniors and upperclassmen have done a great job acclimating the underclassmen to the culture and style of play of Lehigh basketball.
“The experience from last year has prepared the team for the year in front of them,” Troyan said. “The opportunity to win a championship, go to the NCAA tournament and have a veteran group of kids returning from that team will be a strength to our program.”
Last year team’s leading scorer and current junior captain Frannie Hottinger credits her leadership style to former captains Mariah Sexe and Mary Clougherty.
“Stepping into their shoes, I have learned a lot from being under their leadership,” Hottinger said.
Hottinger said it’s a team-first mentality when stepping into the captain role, and as a player, it has pushed her to work.
Hottinger was named to the preseason First-Team All-Patriot league team.
Senior guard Clair Steele is not afraid to use her voice and hold teammates accountable when they are not meeting expectations.
“I know my teammates are capable of so much,” Steele said. “I try to push them to their limits for them to keep growing, staying focused throughout the process.”
In a season of uncertainty last year, Troyan and the women’s basketball staff decided to shift schematics to a simplistic style. They found that the team responded positively to the change and performed better.
Troyan said, prior to this type of style, the team had a very controlling offense. Now players have the freedom to dictate the tempo of the game.
“The style we want to play is an up-tempo style,” Troyan said. “Take open threes, get the ball up the floor quickly, a fun style that will evolve where the effectiveness in how we play will be predicated on our depth.”
Hottinger was able to break out last year due to this up-tempo style, going from scoring 2.1 points per game as a freshman to 14.2 points per game as a sophomore.
The up-tempo style allows guards to push the ball up the floor and find wings and bigs who run the lane.
“It’s fun to play fast because there are so many different opportunities for people to score,” Hottinger said. “The offensive switch has allowed each player to play to their strengths.”
This new pace of play is unattainable without a point guard who can make the right decisions.
Speeding up the game does not allow the defense to be set but also speeds up the point guard and forces them to make quicker decisions.
Steele has flourished in this role, leading the team with 71 assists.
“It has allowed us to play basketball at the end of the day,” Steele said. “It has benefited me as a point guard making the right read finding my teammates for open shots.”
Lehigh’s next matchup is against Saint Peter’s Friday night at Stabler Arena at 7 p.m.