• Patrick Engels

D2 Women's Update: CIAA Preview

Shocking conference tournament upsets. Emotional championship wins. Legendary player performances. Name it, and the 2021-22 Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association regular and postseason had it.


However, no matter how special last year was, it is time to move onto the next season.

What will the 2022-23 season bring?


Will Lincoln continue its dominance and repeat as regular season and conference champions?

Will another team come out of nowhere and shock the entire conference, much like Elizabeth City State did in the regular season?


Although these burning questions will not be answered for several months, players and coaches throughout the CIAA provided some insight as to what may be on the horizon in 2022-23.

Northern Division:

Bowie State:

Last Season: 12-12 overall, (3rd in Northern Division), 10-6 in conference

With a young core of starters, Bowie State managed to finish the 2021-22 season with an above .500 conference record and a top-five scoring defense. Now, head coach Shadae Swan’s team will look to take the next step in the CIAA behind a blossoming frontcourt superstar.


Redshirt freshman forward Katerra Myers should emerge as one of the top players in the CIAA after turning heads in her first collegiate season. In 24 games played, Myers recorded three double-doubles while averaging a team-high 9.3 points and 7 rebounds a game, earning her All-Conference and All-CIAA Rookie Team selections.


To help the budding second-year forward carry the load this season, the Bulldogs brought in a decorated group of transfers who can perform on each end of the court.


Junior guard Jayla Irvin highlights the new additions for the Bulldogs, as the Chesapeake County College transfer exploded on both ends last season with 24.1 points, 8.9 rebounds and 3 assists a contest.


Joining Irvin on Bowie State’s list of transfers are a pair of forwards in Division-I Mt. Saint Mary’s Abigail Bailey and NJCAA Montgomery College’s Pyrncess Lawson.


Standing at 6-foot-2 and 6-foot-1 respectively, the two transfers will look to fortify the Bulldogs’ frontcourt after combining to average 5.1 points and 4.9 rebounds with their prior teams.


Elizabeth City State:

Last season: 21-7 overall, (2nd in Northern Division), 11-5 in conference

Inheriting a program that recorded seven straight seasons at or below .500, head coach Tynesha Lewis wasted no time to turn around the Vikings program.


In just two seasons as head coach, Lewis has brought ECSU back to relevance, leading her team to a 21-win season - the team’s most victories since the 2012-13 season - and a berth in the CIAA conference championship game. If the reigning CIAA Coach of the Year wants to guide the Vikings to another successful season in 2022-23, she will need to lean on her team’s formidable defense - which has become its main identity, according to Lewis.


“Defense will always be a staple in our culture, defense is not optional,” Lewis said. “Athletes know before they come here that guarding is a requirement for playing time.”


The Vikings, who gave up a conference-low 57.4 points a game last season, should wreak havoc once again behind the efforts of senior forward and reigning CIAA Defensive Player of the Year Sireann Pitts.


The Raleigh, North Carolina, native will return to the ECSU’s lineup after displaying her tenacity in the paint last year with a conference-leading 43 blocked shots and 156 defensive rebounds. While the junior forward excels on defense, she can also produce for Lewis’ team on the offensive end, as she recorded eight double-figure scoring performances and racked up a team-high four double-doubles.


Lincoln:

Last Season: 22-8 Overall, (1st in Northern Division), 12-4 in conference

Dedicating the 2021-22 season to DeAshia Young - a former Lincoln standout who passed away unexpectedly on Feb. 5, 2022 - the Lions embarked on a historic year, capturing their first-ever conference championship crown and NCAA tournament berth.


Although Lincoln’s season will be remembered by many throughout the CIAA for years to come, head coach Janice Washington’s team will look to reestablish their identity in 2022-23 with a crop of new players.


To fill the void left by CIAA Player of the Year and Academic All-American Bryanna Brown, Lincoln turned their attention to the transfer portal and signed sophomore guard and offensive weapon Anyssa Fields.

A transfer from Division-II Georgian Court, Fields should add another explosive element to a Lions offense that ranked first in the CIAA in scoring last season. In her first two seasons of Division-II play, the Long Branch, New Jersey, native racked up 566 points, earning her the CACC Player of the Year in 2020-21 and a spot on the CACC First-Team in 2021-22.


Aside from Fields, Lincoln will look to sophomore guards Ciani Montgomery and Jaleesa Lanier to drive the offense in 2022-23, as the two backcourt mates combined to average 6.1 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game a season ago.


Shaw:

Last Season: 11-15 overall, (5th in Northern Division), 8-8 in conference

After finishing last season with the CIAA’s worst scoring defense and scoring margin in the conference, Jacques Curtis’ squad plans to improve on both sides of the ball to see a more favorable result in 2022-23. For that to happen, Shaw needs to rely on the production of a reliable veteran two-way starter.


Senior guard Mackenzie Pollard will look to assume the leading role on Shaw’s offense next season after netting a team-high 12.3 points per game on a 41.2 percent shooting.


Pollard can also compensate for the Bears’ conference-worst 19.1 three-point field goal percentage last season by displaying her prowess on the perimeter, as she shot an efficient 31.3 percent from beyond the arc in 2021-22.


While Pollard will help Shaw improve its shooting beyond the arc, fellow senior guard Makayla Sutton should provide a boost to the team’s backcourt defense.


The former Elizabeth City State University Viking will look to impose her will on the perimeter once again after averaging 1.1 steals a game while playing just 22.3 minutes per game during her junior campaign.


Virginia State:

Last Season: 13-17 overall (6th in Northern Division), 5-11 in conference

After a disappointing 13-17 season, the Trojan faithful are eagerly awaiting the start of the Nadine Domond era, who comes to Virginia State after spending six seasons under the tutelage of legendary Rutgers head coach Vivian Stringer.


For Domond to bring a “rebirth” to the once-successful Division-II program, she will need to maximize the capability of the team’s already tenacious defense.


Domond, who inherits the conference’s third-best scoring defense, will lean on senior guard Sommer Blakemore to lead the team once again on the defensive front in 2022-23. Netting a remarkable 1,012 minutes played in 2021-22, Blakemore helped contribute to the team’s 9.9 steals a contest last season - good for third in the conference - by recording 2.6 steals a game, a total that was second best in the conference.


While Blakemore will likely man Virginia State’s defense, fellow senior guard Shayla Sweeney should provide a major boost for Domond’s offense. Last season, Sweeney ranked in the top-20 in the conference with 10 points a contest, while reaching double figures in scoring 11 of her 23 appearances.


Virginia Union:

Last Season: 10-14 overall (4th in Northern Division), 7-9 in conference

Despite winning five of their last eight games, the Tierra Terry-coached Lady Panthers experienced an uncharacteristically subpar season in 2021-22, failing to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time in six seasons and recording their first record below .500 since the 2014-2015 season.


Virginia Union will attempt to claw its way back to national relevance with a healthy mix of returning veterans and budding newcomers.


Headlining the returning core for the Lady Panthers is senior forward Ny Langley, who enters the 2022-23 season with a Preseason All-CIAA Team selection. Last season, the Greenville, North Carolina, native emerged as a steady force for the program, as she started all 23 games and led the team with 13.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists a contest.


These stats allowed Langley to become the only player in the CIAA to finish within the top 10 in the conference in points, assists and rebounds last season.


While Langley should dominate the frontcourt, Virginia Union will look to a new face this season to help spearhead the perimeter.


A transfer from Division-II Mercyhurst, redshirt sophomore guard Brittini Martin hopes to provide a “spark plug” to a Lady Panthers’ defense that ranked ninth in overall scoring defense, 10th in total steals and dead last in turnover margin.


Martin said she views “always bringing defensive intensity” as her main contribution to her new team.

“I try to bring energy to my teammates,” Martin said. “Whatever needs to be done, wherever I need to step in, is where I try and [contribute].”


According to Coach Terry, this type of focus and passion must be infectious if the program is to return to its once-formidable form.


“Our goals are the same as every team,” Terry said. “Win the conference championship and compete at the NCAA level. It is going to take a championship mentality, being 1 percent better every day, and complete dedication from every player on the team.”


Southern Division

Claflin:

Last Season: 8-19 overall, (5th in Southern Division), 4-6 in conference

After serving as the interim head coach for most of the 2021-22 regular season, Terrance “Tee” Jenkins hopes to turn his team into a more competitive program as the head man in 2022-23.


To do this, the first-year head coach will need to dramatically improve a Claflin offense - one that failed to reach 60 points in 17 of its 27 games and ranked in the bottom third in the CIAA in scoring and field goal percentage last season.


The Panthers’ offense should be led by senior center Breanna Price, who punished defenders inside the paint as a junior with three double-doubles and ranked inside the top-25 in the conference in scoring and rebounds, with 10.2 points and 5.6 rebounds per game.


However, if Claflin wants to compete in the CIAA this season, they will need to count on other scoring options to complement Price.


That can come from senior guard/forward Destiny Coleman and sophomore guard Janelle Sample. The 6-foot-1 Coleman should turn into a force on both ends of the floor after racking up 8.9 points, 5.9 rebounds a game along with a team-high 15 blocked shots. While Coleman looks to control the paint alongside Price, Sample should produce on the perimeter in 2022-23.


Coming off the bench for the Panthers in her first season, the Richmond, Virginia, native collected nine double-digit scoring performances and recorded five games of 15 or more points.


Fayetteville State

Last Season: 13-12 overall, (2nd in Southern Division), 6-4 in conference

The Serena King-Coleman-coached Broncos finished the 2021-22 season on a sour note, falling on the wrong side of an upset loss to last-place Livingstone in the first round of the CIAA tournament.


Despite the late-season disappointment, Fayetteville State can emerge as one of the better teams in the entire conference this season with several of last year’s contributors returning to the team. Headlining the group of returning starters for Livingstone is a pair of intimidating junior guards.


Rasheka Simmons and Aniylah Bryant should lead the backcourt once again in 2022-23 after they were both named to the CIAA All-Conference team in their sophomore campaigns. In their respective seasons, Simmons and Bryant found themselves at the top of the leaderboards in the CIAA, with Simmons ranking third in the conference with 14.6 points a game and Bryant ranking first with 2.8 steals a contest.


While Simmons and Bryant should power the Broncos’ offense, senior guard London Thompson should provide the energy and toughness needed for King-Coleman’s squad to excel inside the paint. Standing at just 5-foot-9, the Lumberton, North Carolina, native was remarkably dominant on the glass, helping the team rank second in the conference in rebounding by collecting a team-high 7.8 boards a game, good for second place in the CIAA.

Thompson also contributed on the defensive end by swiping 1.6 steals a game, which was 14th in the conference.


Livingstone:

Last Season: 8-20 overall, (6th in Southern Division), 1-9 in Conference

Following a postseason run that placed Livingstone one win away from a CIAA tournament final berth, the Blue Bears will look to continue that positive momentum in 2022-23 behind a potent defensive attack. Head coach Chiante Wester’s team, which relinquished just 60.1 points a game last season and ranked within the top five in the CIAA in both blocks and steals a game, will once again pose a formidable threat on the defensive end thanks to two returning senior standouts.


Livingstone’s defensive efforts starts with senior guard Andresia Alexander, who was recently named to the preseason All-CIAA team. In 24 games played, the Charlotte, North Carolina, native emerged as a pest on the perimeter all season, collecting a team-high 2.3 steals a game, good for third-most in the CIAA.


Alexander said following the mantra of “defense wins games” has allowed her to become one of the more intimidating ball hawks in the conference.


“I take pride in shutting whoever I’m guarding down because I take pride in doing my part on the court,” Alexander said.


Complementing Alexander on the defensive end will be fellow senior Jamiah Lane, who ranked 12th in the conference in blocked shots with 12.


On the offensive end, Livingstone will look to improve upon their conference-worst scoring offense by leaning on senior guard Daijah Turner, who reached double figures a team-high 16 times last season while shooting 35.9 percent from the field.


Wester said she expects her team to be more competitive on the offensive end this season by leaning on veteran backcourt scorers like Turner.


“This year I am looking to be a well-rounded team with outside scoring and wings that can attack and score the ball,” Wester said.


Johnson C. Smith

Last Season: 15-10 overall, (1st in Southern Division), 8-2 in conference

Reeling off 10 wins in their last 13 contests, Stephen Joyner Jr.’s Golden Bulls team secured an impressive eighth straight winning season, a streak that started in Joyner Jr.’s second year with the team in 2013.


For Johnson C. Smith to continue this almost-decade-long stretch of success, they will need to rely on their explosive offensive scoring attack, one which ranked in the top three in both scoring offense and team field goal percentage in 2021-22.


Spearheading the Golden Bulls’ offense are a pair of talented guards. This starts with redshirt senior guard Shaniya Jones, who returns to the lineup after ranking fourth in the conference with 14.1 points a game on an efficient 45.3 percent shooting, good for second in the CIAA.

Jones’ scoring efforts will be matched by sophomore guard Ciara Harris, who emerged on the conference scene in her inaugural season by recording 10 games of 15 or more points, helping her become last season’s CIAA Rookie of the Year.


While JCSU should be led by seasoned returning standouts, the Golden Bulls will also welcome in some fresh talent that could help the program reach new heights in 2022-23. A transfer from Cape Fear Community College, junior guard NiAmoni Bagley will add yet another dimension to the team’s elite offense, as the Durham, North Carolina, native netted 9.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.1 assists a game on 45.5 percent shooting


St. Augustine’s:

Last Season: 10-15 overall, (3rd in Southern Division), 6-4 in conference

Despite the 10-15 record, the Ebony Tanner-led Falcons finished the season with the team’s highest winning percentage since the 2014-2015 season.


To continue this upward progression into 2022, they will look to lean on the improving play of sophomore guard Lauren Banks. Last season, Banks emerged as one of the team’s most reliable players in just her first collegiate stint, starting 23 of 25 games and recording a team-high 10.3 points a contest. These stats earned her a well-deserved spot on the CIAA All-Rookie team.


While Banks will likely emerge as the premier scoring option for the Falcons this season, she should receive offensive help from the team’s four incoming transfers, who each enter the program with a load of experience and talent.


Headlining the group of incoming transfers is sophomore guard Symphonie Bryant-Brown, who started 19 games for Division-II West Virginia Wesleyan and contributed on the offensive end with a team-high 11.2 points per game.


Although she played just 12 total minutes last season, Division-I Stony Brook transfer and 5-11 sophomore guard/forward Jamiah Richardson will also look to make an impact on this year’s team with her sheer size and versatility. If the incoming transfers can quickly assert themselves onto the team alongside the talented Banks, look for St. Augustine’s to flirt with its first winning season in 11 seasons.


Winston-Salem State

Last season: 12-13 overall, (4th in Southern Division), 5-5 in conference

After reaching the CIAA tournament quarterfinals and finishing the season as the conference’s second-best scoring offense, L’Tona Lamonte’s Rams squad enters the 2022-23 season with a retooled lineup, as three of the team’s top four scorers are no longer on the roster.


While Winston-Salem State welcomed 11 new players to try and fill in the holes left by the departing graduates, they will still enter the season led by one of the top players in the entire conference. Graduate guard Amaya Tucker will look to repeat her stellar performance from last year in her fifth season with the Rams.


In her redshirt senior campaign, Tucker was selected to the All-CIAA Backcourt Team after ranking sixth in the CIAA with 13.6 points a game. However, if WSSU wants to make a run at their first-ever conference title, it will need some production outside of their graduate phenom.


Hoping to provide those reinforcements are a pair of Rams who have played a combined total of just six games last season. After sitting out the entire 2021-22 season due to eligibility issues, redshirt junior point guard Jainaya Jones should emerge as one of the team’s most impactful backcourt players. According to coach Lamonte, Jones will excel in the program due to her unique speed and her familiarity with the program.


“She’s a very special point guard,” Lamonte said. “She’s quick as lightning. She’ll come with the year under her belt of practicing with the team and getting to know us, and just be able to make an impact.”


While Jones and Tucker should lead the Rams on the perimeter, look for graduate forward O’Shea Hatley to produce inside the paint.


Although the Durham, North Carolina, native dealt with a broken foot throughout her last two seasons, Hatley still managed to make an impact when it mattered most in 2021-22, averaging 10.5 points and six rebounds a contest during the CIAA tournament, earning her a spot on the All-CIAA tournament team.


This year, coach Lamonte said she expects her forward to continue this momentum by bullying defenders inside the paint with her raw strength and power.


“What I’ve seen from O’Shea is she’s tried to extend her game a little bit,” Lamonte said. “She’s trying to be more of that outside four, but we need her to go back to where her bread and butter is. She’s tough to defend when she’s on the inside with her moves.”


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