2019-20 Women's Basketball Season Outlook: New Leaders Will Emerge

Senior Akwia Tilton is a returning starter who averaged 6.2 ppg and was tied
for second in the NCAC at 1.8 steals per game.

The College of Wooster women's basketball team will look to prove naysayers wrong after being selected to finish ninth in the 2019-20 North Coast Athletic Conference Women's Basketball Preseason Coaches' Poll.

On paper, the losses of the team's top two scorers, Anna Gibbs and Kyle Croxton, will definitely hurt. 

Gibbs, an All-NCAC Second Team honoree last year, left a legacy that placed her fifth all-time in program history with 1,238 points. She also was a staple in the backcourt as one of two players since 1987 to play and start in every game she appeared.

Wooster is coming off a 6-19 year where they finished 2-14 in the NCAC. 

They had a pair of notable wins in NCAC play against Ohio Wesleyan University and Oberlin College, but more times than naught, head coach Lisa Panepento felt the team should have done better.

"We were disappointed we didn't make the conference tournament," Panepento said. "We lost to teams we should not have lost to and beat a couple teams that were significantly above us."

She is hoping this year's seniors can take the negatives of last year and turn them into positives for 2019-20.

"They've seen the ups and downs and know what it's going to take to get over that hump," Panepento said. "And I really see that do or die mentality in that senior class."

This year's roster includes 11 returnees and six newcomers. Four make up the senior class and all four should have significant roles.


Masani Francis and Kylie Orr have big shoes to fill as they take over the point guard position.

Orr is one of the team's better shooters, averaging 7.8 points in 14 games last year. She also returns as the top 3-point threat after shooting 35 percent (20-for-58).

Francis dealt with injuries last year and averaged 2.1 points in limited playing time, but she is one of the three returning sophomores Panepento is excited about.

"We're expecting good things out of Masani at the point," Panepento said. "She's incredibly quick getting to the basket, but she's more of a distributor."

Another sophomore is Jenna Stanton who was named a team captain this season and is expected to start at shooting guard. Stanton is described as a pure shooter so she should be key in getting valuable points if her teammates can find her planted outside the arch.

Senior Cat Fiorito is a utility player with the ability to play any 1-4 position. She is another team captain and one of the more vocal leaders on the team. She appeared in all 25 games last year.

Backcourt newcomers include Paige Wells, Riley Thorr and A'Kerryia Hawkins. Hawkins is a local, hailing from Orrville, and is considered a defensive specialist. 


The frontcourt will have an interesting look this season with a number of players who can fill in multiple positions. 

The center position belongs to junior Maria Janasko. Classmate Austrella Balley is the backup but an injury will keep her out for the first month of the season.

Janasko was last year's best shooter from the floor at 45 percent (94-for-208) and is the top returning scorer (9.7 ppg). According to Panepento, she came back from the offseason in the best shape she's ever been, and Panepento will try to use her size and speed as a strength in transition and half court play.

"She runs the floor very well at her size," Panepento said. "There's not too many post players who can keep up with her so we're working a lot on getting the ball up court quickly and getting it to her."

Senior captain Aubri McKoy joins her in the four spot and returns after being one of three players to appear and start in all 25 games last season. Janasko and McKoy were the top two rebounders last year averaging more than five rebounds per game.

Senior Akwia Tilton will start at small forward but can fill both forward positions. Tilton has upped her scoring each year, finishing at 6.2 points per game last year. 

Also a defensive threat, Tilton finished tied for second in the conference at 1.8 steals per game.

Junior Sarah Marion is another player who can play a number of positions. She is a threat from range, shooting 31 percent (23-of-74) last year.

A'Janay Nicholson is another sophomore who should see increased playing time. She will see time in the two and three spot as Panepento calls her one of the team's better rebounders.

Frontcourt newcomers include sophomore Krista English and first-years Namara Rwakatare and Jasmine Thompson.

Wooster opens the season by hosting the 2019 Nan Nichols Classic where they will face Bethany College. They open NCAC play Dec. 4 with a trip to Allegheny College.