6 years after she was hired, Gina Castelli and Le Moyne have shot at NCAA Tournament

first_img Comments Head coach Gina Castelli faced over a dozen Le Moyne women’s basketball players in the visitor’s locker room after it defeated then-No. 14 Florida Southern College. It was Nov. 23, and her team had just moved to 3-1 on the season with a seven-point win.But she hadn’t told the Dolphins how high their opponent was ranked. So after the game, she wrote the Moccasins’ ranking on the whiteboard. She asked her players what they thought that number meant. They guessed offensive rebounds, but Castelli shot back the real meaning.“We went nuts,” redshirt sophomore guard Liz Millea said.Inside its home gym, only one of the 110 banners marking NCAA Tournament appearances is for the women’s basketball program, one that’s slowly gained acclaim in Division II hoops recently. When Castelli took over Le Moyne six years ago, she fulfilled a step-by-step reconstruction to create the team that sits atop the Northeast-10 Conference standings. This season, the Dolphins (19-4, 13-4) are ranked for the first time in school history after knocking off two top-15 teams and totaling a 14-game winning streak.“Water the culture, water the vision,” Castelli said, “and never settle.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textIn 2014, Bentley University, a NE-10 rival, won the NCAA Women’s Division II National Championship behind an undefeated, 35-0 season. After her first season with the Dolphins, Castelli began to formulate a plan that modeled her roster off of Bentley’s. It started with size, continued through solid point guards and ended with a winning program.Corinne Poitevien, now a graduate student, led a class with three players taller than 6-feet. The next piece, McKayla Roberts, has averaged 17.5 points per game this season and filled the point guard vacancy. Soon, Castelli’s desired squad came to fruition.“I think little by little we’ve been able to fill in those pieces,” Castelli said, “so that at this point now, we’re right there.”Greg Wall | Le Moyne AthleticsThis season, the Dolphins won 11 of their first 13 games, including a blowout win against then-No. 10 Bentley on the road. After a one-point loss to The College of Saint Rose on Nov. 28, the Dolphins didn’t lose a game for over two months. Their 14-game winning streak set the program record. After 12 consecutive victories, they were ranked at No. 24.But in the first minute of Le Moyne’s game against Adelphi on Feb. 6, starting guard Cameron Tooley left the court with a leg injury. Teams began face-guarding Roberts more frequently, and her production dipped. The Dolphins lost to Adelphi, and then two days later lost by 30 to American International College. It dropped Le Moyne out of the national rankings and served as a reminder.“(Winning) became so much of a habit,” Millea said.A day before Le Moyne’s chance to clinch a top-seed in the NE-10 tournament, freshman Erin Fouracre pulled up for a three in practice and missed. The words of Castelli — “Quick shots lead to transition for them” — echoed throughout the gym. When Southern Connecticut State hit three quick 3-pointers the next day, the Dolphins started to play tighter man-to-man defense. And when Madison Shetrom launched a half-court shot with three seconds left in the first quarter, Castelli yelled at her, saying she had more time.“I was glad we got ranked,” Castelli said, “but I was also glad we weren’t ranked, because it made us a little hungrier, too.”As Castelli shot free throws at the end of practice last Friday, it took until the tenth shot for her first miss. Before each one, Castelli bounced the ball, glanced up toward the backboard and released it. Behind the backboard, Castelli saw the gym’s banners, stretching across the upper third of the wall, a reminder of what her team wants to accomplish this season.“You see men’s lacrosse, women’s lacrosse, men’s basketball. They consistently played at that high level,” Castelli said. “That’s a goal of mine, to get this program to a place where we can get there too.” Facebook Twitter Google+center_img Published on February 19, 2019 at 11:06 pm Contact Andrew: [email protected] | @CraneAndrewlast_img

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