By Tom Benoit
October 30, 2012 5:32 PM

Photo courtesy of Siena Athletics

There are a number of words to describe the Siena women’s basketball junior class. I will give you a hint. Timid, lazy and unmotivated are not among them. Hard-working, fiery and nasty is more like it. This group of six players have been through many ups and downs together and as individuals and they are determined to fight back and show they have something to prove. With only one senior on the roster their experience will be counted on to help make this season successful. Here is a look at this years junior class.

Ciara Stewart appeared in 25 games last season, starting in five. She is likely to play an increasingly significant role this season playing significant minutes as point guard. Head Coach Ali Jaques describes Stewart’s determination to heighten her role.

“Ciara is the hardest working player on the team, bar none. I can think of numerous examples of when she’s in early, she stays late and for a point guard, who needs to direct people and run the team, she works harder than anybody else so far. That doesn’t mean the rest of them don’t work hard, cause trust me they’re working at it.”

Clara Sole Anglada played in all 29 games last season, starting in 16. She averaged 7.9 points and 6.1 rebounds in 24 minutes per game. She was the leading shot blocker with 20 and was second on the team in threes (27), three-point field goal percentage (36.0%) and rebounding. She scored in double figures 10 times and finished the season very strong displaying a solid inside and outside game. Coach Jaques describes her toughness on the court.

“Don’t let that pretty smile fool ya ’cause shes pretty nasty. I like how hard she plays and I like the versatility in her game. I think we’re gonna see great things out of her this year. Clara is a multi dimensional player and I’m looking forward to using her in a lot of different ways and her team mates have seen her be able to step outside play inside do a lot of different things.”

Sole Anglada talked about the energy toward the upcoming season.

“We’re really excited first of all for our first game November 9th but most of all we really think that we can win the MAAC championship and that’s what were gonna try to do, because we can do it.”

She embraces the use of the versatility in her game.

“I just want to help the team however I’m needed. If I have to be in the post I’ll be in the post if I have to play as a guard I’ll be there. I just want to help the team to win.”

For the six juniors, the adjustment to a new coaching staff was not easy at first, but Sole Anglada says they have focused on looking ahead.

“It’s just a different coaching style, like really different. But, it’s been great. They are a really good coaching staff. They’ve helped us a lot because they know its difficult for us too, being with the same coach for two years . We’re really excited about it. We just think about playing and winning. That’s what we care about.”

Kate Zarotney played in 27 games as a sophomore, starting in 13. She averaged 3.7 points and 3.4 rebounds in 19.0 minutes per game. She led the team with a 46.3% field goal percentage. She has battled multiple shoulder injuries and following off season surgery is looking to return this season better than ever.

“I’m actually really excited coming off of injury. You kinda look at it as it can set you back or you can take a positive note off of it. I just prepared myself to come in strong as I can, in the best condition of my life and I’m looking forward to a new year. ”

During the off season she committed herself to strength and conditioning by following an intensive routine.

“I was running twice a day and I would do the P90X program. Also, my mom was trying to get back into shape so I walked 3 to 4 miles every night. Every day I was trying to do something.”

Her determination has not gone unnoticed by Coach Jaques.

“Kate does the dirty work everyday. When you’ve been through some of the physical things that Kate has injury wise, just her determination, her work ethic and her willingness to learn every day, has been a example for the rest of our players. Kate puts a smile on my face cause she never complains but she does the dirty work and that’s fun to watch.”

When asked whether she liked being known for the dirty work she replied, ” I do because sometimes the dirty work doesn’t get noticed as much but that’s not what I’m looking for either. I’m good at the little things and as a player you have to know what you’re good at. So, I just do my part and do the best that I can. Coming in this year I told everybody that I really wanted to shock people. I want to become a better player and really surprise people.”

Oxyx Mintah appeared in seven games last season. Although her minutes have been limited in her first two seasons as a Saint, she has an athletic element to her game and showed some solid spurts coming off the bench last year that highlighted her potential. Jaques has seen her display those talents in preseason practices and describes how that will add value on the court.

“Onyx is the most athletic kid we have. She changes the game with her athleticism and her energy.” Her message to Mintah is, “Keep getting deflections and getting rebounds and blocking shots. Then we’re going to be ok.”

Ally Mullings suffered a season ending ACL injury in the opening minutes of the first game of last season. She appeared in 27 games, with four starts in her freshman year averaging 2.2 points, 1.4 rebounds and 0.8 assists in 13.3 minutes per game. She has fought back through her recovery and is serving as an example for her team as Coach Jaques explains.

“It’s been diocumented that Ally’s coming off an ACL injury and I think the one thing Ally does is she embraces being on the court everyday. Even if we’re having a couple pf tough days, Ally’s positive attitude feeds off to the rest of the team. I think that’s really inspirational. We’re taking it day by day but I’ve been really impressed with what she’s brought so far.”

Through the disappointment Mullings stayed focused on returning to the court.

“I went in with a positive mindset that I was gonna get better on the bench for the rest of the season. I felt like I was able to learn a lot more about the game just watching, seeing where openings are, where the defense can break down and with the coaches last year I watched film sometimes of the other teams so that was really positive. I also got to know my teammates more.”

Although recovery from surgery has been a tough road she said things are in a good spot.

“I’m feeling really fine right now. Clearly there are some bad days but I try to push through those. Like Coach said, I try to stay positive and the team supports me.”

Finally Mullings talked about the transition of the team through the off season.

“I think it’s going pretty well. Clearly we all loved Coach Castelli but we appreciate all the changes and the team’s pretty happy with how things have been going. We’re working well together.”

Kanika Cummings played in 27 games last year and made her first career start. She averaged 4.4 points and 1.8 rebounds in 17.9 minutes per game. Her high energy often serves as a spark plug for the team and was highlighted when she scored a career-high 17 points on 8-11 shooting in just 25 minutes off the bench at Niagara. Coach Jaques likes the fire in her game.

“Kanika has a chip on her shoulder but in a good way. Kanika competes every day. She works hard. She plays any position we ask her to play. I think she’s a great shooter and I really like coaching people that have that kind of fire.”

Cummings tells of the fuel behind her fire.

“I think I have a lot to offer this team so I hope I get to show that. I just wanna change the energy of the game. Last year I learned just to work hard every single day. Don’t take one day for granted. In practice you have to just keep pushing. It’s gonna get tough at times but if you keep pushing you will get through those times.”

She describes how the players came together in the face of change.

“I think it was a team effort. We all stayed together. We needed to. It was really tough for us but I think staying together as a team made us get through it and adjust. I think the team is doing really well and I think we have some things to show the people out there.”

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