The USF Women’s Basketball Team opens its season Friday against Cleary. Coach John McGinty’s team has been a consistent bright spot for Saints fans with an exciting squad taking the floor each winter, and this year has the promise to be another entertaining one.
The Fighting Saints have been a staple at the top end of the CCAC (Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference) for almost a decade, with eight consecutive 20-win seasons. The success of the program in recent years bodes well for the outlook to the 2023-2024 campaign, but there are going to be challenges. McGinty lost multiple key contributors from a season ago. Players like Jordan Pyle and Justene Charlesworth are handing the mantle over to younger players looking for new opportunities.
The Fighting Saints are certainly in this situation after many veterans moved on from the program, but Coach McGinty is confident and excited about the new wave of veterans and this year’s journey for the team
“There is always a reteaching element that comes along with a learning curve for even the vets, McGinty said. "This season, we continue and will always lean on returning players who learned a lot from that group of seniors last year. We have a great group of good people who are continuing to find ways to be better daily, led by our returners which is exciting.”
The 2023-24 Saints come into the season as one of the younger teams in the conference. Many players are anxious to fill roles held in the last couple seasons by key players like Pyle, Alina Jahnke, Hannah Swiatek and Charlesworth. Moving on from those great players is going to be no small undertaking for the Saints according to McGinty who reflected on the legacy of these players.
“Last year’s group had some players who were a part of historical success in University of St. Francis athletics record books that will always be missed,” McGinty said.
With these key figures leading the way in the Saints rotation, the team has had five straight top-3 finishes in the CCAC, and if this iteration of the Saints is going to make it six, they are going to have to lean on younger talent to produce at a high level, a task that some members of the team say they are looking forward to.
“We are young but we are a hungry and hard-working group. I think we will surprise a lot of people this year and I’m excited to be a part of it,” Talia Pellegrini, a sophomore guard for the Saints said.
Pellegrini goes on to note the attitude of the team as a strength she feels the Saints will have this year.
“I think the mentality, positive energy, and discipline of this group will have a large impact on the court for us,” Pellegrini said.
It's a sentiment shared by her teammate and fellow sophomore guard Laurelei Thormeyer who said, “Put simply, our attitude is ecstatic and ambitious.” Thormeyer also believes that there is a common thread that unites this year’s group that will keep it centered throughout the season.
“Perseverance is something that has been prevalent throughout the girls in our program, so we are ready for whatever curveballs are thrown our way,” Thormeyer said.
Perseverance is one of the major themes that has driven the team through off-season workouts and pre-season practices so far with the hope that this attitude will help the Saints with the regular season starting Friday at the Pat Sullivan Center.