The NYIT women’s basketball team has chosen not to listen.
The Bears, for the past two years, heard they were the underdogs going into the ECC playoffs.
They made it to the final both times, knocking out higher seeds along the way.
The Bears are hearing the opposite this year. Instead of doubt, naysayers have high expectations for the squad, surmising a definite win at the ECC championship.
The Bears are turning a deaf ear to the hype.
“We aren’t worried about what is expected of us,” returning forward Meg Knollmeyer said. “We’re looking forward to building our team chemistry so when the time comes for playoffs, we’re a strong team. We have so many new players, it is normal to come out weaker.”
The Bears may be taking the bashful route but Knollmeyer has a point.
The team is comprised of seven returning players, including Taylor Tripptree and Shalie Frierson, who both averaged about 10 points a game, and nine newcomers. Names like Nina Vukosavljevic, the program's all-time leader in assists, and Maia Hood both graduated.
Knollmeyer is the biggest returnee. As a freshman, she was the leading scorer and earned the ECC Rookie of the Year. She was sidelined last season after she tore the ACL in her right knee.
But returning from any injury is rough.
“My only thought during my recovery was how I wanted to come back strong,” Knollmeyer said. “I wanted to come back strong my sophomore year and the injury was a letdown. It’s different coming back. I’m trying to get my shot back, work on my layups and form. It’s a lot of relearning, but my mindset is still the same — comeback strong.”
A mindset shared by the team according to coach Kenny Parham, who’s entering his third year.
For him, the season will be about building team chemistry and limiting major injuries. The former is being worked on daily, according to Knollmeyer but the latter has been a longstanding issue.
According to Parham, the last seven seasons consisted of a player tearing their ACL.
The answer to that problem could be an increase of players on the roster.
“We have a good nucleus of returning players and I like the new players coming on,” Parham said. “In our past two seasons, we had depleted rosters due to injury. If we have our full complement of players, we can have them play less minutes, use more subs. With a full roster, hopefully we’ll get different results.”
NYIT will test their chemistry in an exhibition game Nov. 3 against Fordham. The season starts on Nov. 10 at Adelphi.
For now, the Bears will continue listening to themselves and building for future ECC championships.
“I’m hoping we’ll be in the top three of the conference and make it back to the championship,” Knollmeyer said. “We’re such a young team. I actually have higher expectations for next season. I know it’s too soon for that but we’ll have a lot of returners and if we do well this season, we’ll be the best afterward.”