Depth a key factor for Hawks


Courtesy of Sydney Goldstein

Junior center Kendi Barnard finishes at the rim during a practice drill.

Depth is just what the women’s basketball team called for this season as the Hawks return 12 — yes, 12 upperclassmen to the halls of the Campus Rec Center.

With the return of so many experienced players, the Hawks have taken a focused approach to the rapid-fire pace of preseason, showing the ropes to essentially two first-year classes due to a year of missed competition from COVID-19.

The Hawks’ 2021-22 campaign is headlined by the return of first-team all-conference performer Karli Opalka and graduate student Sam Mancinelli, who provide a strong core of leadership as quad captains alongside senior Kay Reen and junior Lizzy Stevenson.

“I think everybody, though overall, is just really excited to be preparing for something other than the unknown,” said Head Coach Kelly Thompson, who returns for season 12 at the helm for the Hawks.

The excitement of the new season came to a sudden halt when Opalka went down with a knee injury during practice.

Fortunately for the Hawks, luck was on their side as the 15 point per game scorer only missed a few practices.

During this time, the Hawks saw players stepping up to fill the voids of leadership and playmaking that were lost while Opalka was on the sideline.

“We saw Kendi Barnard step up big time with her leadership,” said Thompson.

“We had to learn to play without her and lead without her, and sometimes I think that can be really hard, but I think our team stepped up,” she said.

The presence of Mancinelli at the head of the offense has also provided a level of comfort for the Hawks this season. Sitting at ninth all-time in career assists and with a career average of 26 minutes a game, the seasoned point guard provides unparalleled experience on the court.

“She certainly helps our team stay composed and always on the floor, and brings us great leadership every day with her voice and her example,” said Thompson.

Two sophomores look to make their presence felt consistently on the court by cracking the starting lineup in Caroline Elie and Katie Galligan. The two sophomores started in the lone scrimmage against Stonehill during the spring semester and look to carry that experience into the new year.

First-year player Reese Codero also looks to provide valuable minutes off the bench with her shooting ability and high motor on the court.
The Hawks tipped off their season on Wednesday when they traveled to New London, Conn. to face Connecticut College. They’ll look to defend their home court on Saturday against Babson College — start time 1 p.m.