By Merle Exit
Expectations are high for the Queens College women’s basketball team after the program completed a tremendous turnaround.
Fourth-year coach Bet Naumovski last season led the Knights to their second 20-win season in the last 15 years, the other coming in 2008-2009. Queens College, a Division II program, went 15-5 in ECC play and lost in the semifinals to District of Columbia. The big year came two seasons after the program won just a single game during the 2011-12 campaign.
“Last year was a great year for us. It was the best year that Queens College women’s basketball had in about 30 years,” Naumovski said.
There has been gradual improvement during Naumovski’s tenure. In year two, Queens College made the conference playoffs, reached the semifinals last year and the Knights are aiming for the championship game this time around. Naumovski knew she had to change the program’s culture when she took over. Accepting just being okay was unacceptable.
“Mediocrity isn’t going to make us successful,” she said. “We want people who are going to come in and strive to be better each day and contribute to being a team. As we start to succeed, the players have more confidence.”
Queens College returns six players from last season, including leading scorer Madison Rowland (20.4 points per game). It lost only graduate student Melissa Gardner from core the group. Joya McFarland, Raychel Shannon, Janeen McFarlane, Kristen Korzevinski and Elisabeth Gully also return, along with Rowland’s older sister MacKenzie. Naumovski considers Kozevinski the team’s unsung hero and is expecting her to step into a bigger role this season.
“She doesn’t have those eye-popping statistics that grab the media, but she is the most experienced member of the team in regards to time on the court,” the coach said. “I’m looking to her to become more of a leader.”
The Knights are off to a 2-1 start after last weekend and take on Immaculata University as part of the Maggie Dixon Classic at Madison Square Garden Jan 4. The contest is a rematch of the first-ever women’s basketball game played at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 22, 1975 that brought in a crowd of 11,969 fans.
Queens College opened this season with a 60-58 loss to St. Michaels. MacKenzie Rowland, Korzevinski, and Imani Davidson each produced double-digit scoring with Madison MacKenzie adding eight points and six steals.
Queens bounced back to beat Franklin Pierce 61-59 as the Rowland sisters combined for 32 of those points and Korzevinski had 10. It followed that up by beating Dominican 78-60 behind double-doubles from MacKenzie and Madison Rowland. Korzevinsk chipped in 19 points.