As the reigning Patriot League champions entering the 2021-22 season, the Lehigh women’s basketball team was picked in a preseason Patriot League poll to repeat and win the conference for a second time.
The Mountain Hawks ultimately fell short of these expectations, losing to Bucknell in the quarterfinals of the Patriot League tournament this season.
Lehigh finished the regular season 19-11 with an 11-7 record in conference play. The team found particular success at home, finishing 13-3 inside Stabler Arena — their best home finish since 2009-10.
Coach Sue Troyan completed her 27th straight season coaching the Mountain Hawks and improved her all-time record to 430-363. In 2021-22, Troyan’s offense was among the best in the Patriot League with a league-high of 69.0 points per game, 5.5 points ahead of the second-place Army Black Knights. The team’s league-high 8.9 point scoring margin was the fifth-highest mark in school history.
“Our offense is really read-oriented,” sophomore guard Mackenzie Kramer said. “We work a lot on making the right read and getting the ball to whoever’s open. We might enter with a game plan, but we ultimately have to read and react to what the defense gives us.”
As they did the year prior, Lehigh ranked amongst the nation’s best in 3-pointers made. Its league-leading 9.4 threes per-game — falling 0.4 short of the school record broken last year — ranked 10th in the nation.
Senior guard Clair Steele said Troyan emphasized the idea that everyone on the team should be a 3-point threat. While the shooting itself was beneficial, this strategy spread out the defense and created opportunities for the team to make hard cuts and attack the basket.
Kramer led the team’s scoring barrage.
Her team-high 15.9 points per-game was the fourth most in the Patriot League. She finished atop the Patriot League rankings in field goal percentage, 45.9 percent; 3-point field goal percentage, 41.3 percent; and 3-pointers made per game, 3.3.
Fundamental to the team’s success, the team went 8-2 when Kramer knocked down at least four threes.
Kramer said she’s been working tirelessly on improving her jumper and credited her coaches for advising her to speed up her shot.
“We realized that the extra second my shot took last year often allowed the defense to close out,” Kramer said. “I’m still practicing on getting more consistent, especially from midrange.”
Sitting 0.1 percent below Kramer in the Patriot League’s field goal percentage leaders was senior forward Emma Grothaus. While she could shoot it from three, since she was at 28.8 percent for her career, most of Grothaus’ work came from inside the paint.
In her final season, Grothaus averaged career-highs in points, 12.6; rebounds, 9.1; and blocks, 1.8.
In the team’s March 2 victory over Navy, Grothaus became the 21st member of Lehigh’s 1,000-point club. She is just the seventh player in program history to record more than 1,000 career points and more than 600 career rebounds.
Senior guard Megan Walker grew up playing for the same AAU team as Grothaus and said she is impressed with how much she’s developed since they met in eighth grade.
“She’s always been a really tough matchup for opposing teams,” Walker said. “Even at her height, she has a lot of guard skills and can shoot it well, too.”
Both Kramer and Grothaus were named All-Patriot League Second Team honorees, marking the second consecutive season of two Lehigh players earning such honors.
Both were also named to the Academic All-League team.
In addition to Grothaus, two other seniors on the team will be graduating this year.
One is Steele, whose game knowledge and play-making were on display this season.
She led the team in assists, but more impressively led the entire nation in assist-turnover ratio: 3.97, with 131 assists and 33 turnovers.
Steele’s 5.5 assists per-game led the Patriot League, and her 131 total assists on the season were the third-highest, behind Navy’s Jennifer Coleman’s 149 assists and American’s Emily Fisher’s 133.
Kramer said Steele always got the ball where it was supposed to be.
“Her ball-handling and ability to control the pace of the game were impeccable,” Kramer said. “If I was open when she had the ball, I didn’t even have to call for it.”
The final graduating senior is forward Walker, who averaged a career-high 10.4 points this season.
Walker finished the season as the Mountain Hawk’s leader in the steal category.
“She has a motor like no other, and you can tell she is giving her best every game,” Steele said. “I think she brought that out of others on the court too, which tells you how special she was for the team.”
While Kramer said losing these three seniors will take some adjusting, she is confident that the rest of the team will be ready to fill in the gaps.
Part of that adjustment will include acclimating the recruiting class of 2026, which includes two Minnesotans: Katie Hurt from Rochester and Lily Fandre from Eagan.
Six of the members of the 2021-22 team were Minnesota natives.
“There’s so much talent on our bench that didn’t get as many opportunities,” Kramer said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we continued to find success. A lot of them are ready to take on a bigger role.”
One such player will be junior forward Frannie Hottinger. In 2020-21, Hottinger led the team in scoring as a sophomore with 14.2 points and was named to the Second Team All-Patriot League.
Over her first nine games this season, Hottinger averaged a team-high of 16.8 points. However, after returning from an ankle injury, her scoring output decreased. Hottinger still finished as the team’s third-leading scorer with 11 points per game.
Although the roster will lose Steele, Grothaus and Walker, Kramer said she is not worried.
“Don’t be surprised if you see a similar team out there next year,” Kramer said.