Blue White Illustrated

December 2023

Penn State Sports Magazine

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Page 42 of 67

D E C E M B E R 2 0 2 3 4 3 W W W . B L U E W H I T E O N L I N E . C O M A t Big Ten women's basketball me- dia day in October, Penn State coach Carolyn Kieger hailed this year's edition of the Lady Lions as "the deepest and most balanced team I've had the pleasure to coach." On the eve of her fifth season in State Col- lege, Kieger said PSU has the potential to deliver a break- through performance. "We have a chip on our shoulder this season, a chip to prove to ourselves, our fans and the country that we be- long among the nation's best," she said. "Every year, we have been gaining mo- mentum and getting better, and I truly believe this is our year to thrive." The Lady Lions return six players from a team that went 14-17 and 4-14 in Big Ten play last season. That list of returnees includes last year's top three scorers in guards Makenna Marisa (17.5 points per game), Shay Ciezki (11.8) and Leilani Kapinus (11.2). Kapinus was also a defensive force, leading the Big Ten in steals with 97 and earning a spot on the league's All-Defensive team as a redshirt sophomore. To supplement the cast of returnees, Penn State has welcomed five transfers in hope of putting together its first winning season under Kieger. In addition, it will have the services of red- shirt freshman guard Mo- riah Murray, who sat out last year after transferring from Drexel at midseason. The Lady Lions have steadily improved their overall record each year under Kieger, going from seven wins in her first season to nine, then 11, and then 14 last year. However, the team's performance against Big Ten competition has not mirrored that overall improvement. The Lady Lions' four Big Ten wins a season ago were their fewest since they went 1-17 in league play during Kieger's first year in charge of the program. Heading into her fifth season, how- ever, Kieger is optimistic that the com- bination of returning talent and trans- fers — the Lady Lions don't have a single true freshman on their roster — will be enough to put them in contention for the program's first NCAA Tournament berth since 2014. "Our team is jelling, and their chem- istry [is growing]," she said. "I've been so impressed by this summer and this offseason. "They just want to win. We've been putting a lot of different lineups to- gether, and every day in practice we have two teams that are going head-to-head. I've never had that; I usually have one team that dominates. "It's going to be really fun, because we're going to have a lot of depth and a lot of competitiveness. At the end of the day, all 12 of these young ladies just want Penn State to succeed, and that's our only goal — to be back in that NCAA Tournament." ■ WOMEN'S BASKETBALL Lady Lions Looking To Take The Next Step M AT T H E R B | M AT T. H E R B @ O N 3 . C O M PHOTO COURTESY PENN STATE ATHLETICS NO. NAME POS. HT. YEAR HOMETOWN 0 Ashley Owusu G 6-0 Gr. Woodbridge, Va. Averaged 5.1 points in 17 games during her lone season at Virginia Tech af- ter spending her first three years at Maryland. 1 Ali Brigham F 6-4 Sr. Franklin, Mass. Played in all 31 games and made seven starts as a junior, averaging 3.6 points and 2.0 rebounds per game. 2 Tay Valladay G 5-6 Gr. Chicago Averaged 9.7 points, 3.7 assists and 3.7 rebounds in two seasons at Virginia after transferring from Marquette. 3 Moriah Murray G 5-8 R-Fr. Dunmore, Pa. Did not see action last year after transferring to Penn State from Drexel at midseason. 4 Shay Ciezki G 5-7 So. Buffalo, N.Y. Started 29 games as a true freshman, averaging 11.8 points, 2.5 assists and 2.3 rebounds per game, and ranking 22nd nationally in three-point shooting percentage (41.6). 5 Leilani Kapinus G 5-10 R-Jr. Madison, Wis. Earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors as a redshirt sophomore after starting 31 games and averaging 11.2 points, 6.7 rebounds, 3.1 steals and 2.3 assists per game. NO. NAME POS. HT. YEAR HOMETOWN 7 Grace Hall F 6-2 R-So. Homewood, Ill. Comes to Penn State after a freshman season at LSU, during which she saw action in seven games, and a redshirt year at Wabash College in Indiana. 10 Chanaya Pinto F 6-1 Gr. Maputo, Mozambique Made 16 starts and averaged 5.4 points and 3.9 rebounds in her first season at Penn State after transferring from Oregon. 12 Jayla Oden G 5-8 Jr. Baltimore Spent her first two seasons at Illinois, where she played in 50 games with 18 starts and a 5.2-point scoring average. 14 Kylie Lavelle F 6-2 So. Moosic, Pa. Shot 45.8 percent and averaged 11.1 points while making 23 starts as a true freshman at Drexel before transferring to Penn State. 20 Makenna Marisa G 5-11 Sr.+ McMurray, Pa. Earned first-team All-Big Ten honors from the media (second-team coaches) after averaging 17.5 points, 4.2 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game. … Ranks 10th in program history with 1,785 career points. 22 Alli Campbell G 6-0 R-Jr. Altoona, Pa. Notre Dame transfer has played in only 10 games in two seasons at Penn State due to injuries. P E N N S T A T E S T A T E W O M E N ' S B A S K E T B A L L R O S T E R MAKENNA MARISA

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