Young team with a strong defense Women’s basketball excited about team’s progression

Senior captain Sam Leone goes in for a layup.

Composed mainly of underclassmen, the RWU Women’s Basketball team has become a strong defensive team over this past season. 

Head Coach Kelly Thompson was happily surprised by how quickly they formed a tough defense since winter break. She was also surprised at how well they bonded, despite the age difference. 

“It’s an interesting mix, because we only have two seniors, two juniors, six sophomores and five freshmen,” Thompson said. “The team dynamic is surprisingly good despite that… our chemistry is really good.”

Sophomore Karli Opalka is one of the underclassmen that stands out to Thompson this season. Opalka has been named Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) player of the week three times so far this season and averages almost 16 points and 10 rebounds a game. Over the last 18 games she has scored 284 points and 166 rebounds.

“[Opalka] definitely is our anchor in the paint,” Thompson said. 

Opalka said the team is currently focused on its goal of winning a CCC championship.

“From the beginning of the season, it was our focus.”

Last season, Opalka said it took the team a little while to get in a groove since the team was so young.


“We were super young. We had eight freshmen. This year we only have five but we really wanted to avoid that hump and get right into things,” she said. 

She said the team began working on their defenses and offenses right away so the underclassmen would be able to get a full understanding of both sides. This allowed them to try and get into a rhythm quickly. 

Opalka believes the team’s strong chemistry has benefitted the players in more ways than one. 

“We have really improved on our defense. We communicate so well through it,” she said. “Everybody works together.”

Junior Captain Sam Mancinelli agreed with Opalka and said the team has a strong defensive mindset. 

“We have a lot of players who can come step up right away,” Mancinelli said.

Mancinelli believes the team has a good offensive mindset as well.

“On the offensive end, we are a special team because it is almost like anybody can excel at any given moment. It is hard for a team to guard another team when they don’t know who exactly will be scoring the most,” Mancinelli said.

Selflessness is one of the team’s main values, along with character and passion.

“I think we do have really selfless players on our team… if you spend a little bit of time with our players, you feel that right away and you see that right away,” Thompson said. 

In addition to selflessness, Mancinelli said the team has been working on being more appreciative.

“When you appreciate what you do, people put that much more effort into it,” Mancinelli said. “Every time we step out on the court, our effort is there, our heart is there and we are always working.” 

The team is also focusing on the process as a whole. They are not looking too far ahead, instead trying to focus on the next step.

Mancinelli said they are taking everything day by day and always asking themselves one question: What do we need to get better at now so we don’t have to work on it later?

The team’s next game is at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 1. The girls will be playing at home against Wentworth Institute of Technology.

 “I am excited to see how far this team is willing to push themselves to get to where we want to go,” Thompson said. “I think we have the makeup to win a championship.”