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Veterans look to fuel Bryant in 2019-20

Photo by: DSPics.com
Photo by: DSPics.com

SMITHFIELD, R.I. – After a milestone 2018-19 season for head coach Mary Burke and the Bryant University women's basketball team, the Bulldogs look to improve upon their overall mark from a year ago. Last season was a season that Burke would never forget after accumulating her 400th career win. Bryant kicks off the 2019-20 season on the road with in-state rival Brown on Tuesday, Nov. 5 at 7 p.m. as the Bulldogs bring back nine experienced returners and add six rookies to the mix this season.

Of Bryant's nine returners are five experienced seniors who have all taken turns in the starting rotation. Seniors Sydney Holloway (Morgantown, W. Va.), Masey Zegarowski (Hamilton, Mass.), and Stephanie Lesko (Rumson, N.J.) return for their fourth season in the Black and Gold while UConn Avery Point transfers, Taty LaFrance Boyce (Norwich, Conn.) and Meagan Bianchi (Brooklyn, Conn.) compete in their second season as a Bulldog.

Holloway represented Bryant in the Northeast Conference's All-Preseason squad as she was one of two unanimous selections. The Morgantown native earned her second consecutive First Team All-NEC honor last season as she led the conference with 337 rebounds, averaging 11.2 a night. Holloway also notched her 1,000th career point a year ago as she is en route to becoming Bryant's Division I leading scorer. She trails Breanna Rucker '16 by just 66 points as Rucker posted 1,395 points during her four-year career in Smithfield. The mix of scoring and rebounding ranked Holloway 17th nationally as she notched 18 double-doubles last season including two 20/20 games and an added 20-rebound performance.

Zegarowski, Lesko, Boyce, and Bianchi will all contribute at the guard position this year. Zegarowski is the second-leading scorer returning for the Bulldogs as she also tallied the second-most assists on the squad from 2018-19.

Boyce emerged as one of Bryant's top guards last season at the Ocean State Tip-Off Tournament where she dropped a career-high 17 points against Providence. Boyce's fellow Avery Point transfer Bianchi made her debut as a Bulldog late into the season against Sacred Heart on Feb. 16. The senior tallied four points in the ten-minute appearance as she then started every game since giving the Bulldogs quality minutes at the point guard position.

Lesko also returns for her fourth season after dropping a career-high 13 points against Maine last season in Smithfield. The New Jersey native shot 60 percent off three-of-five shooting from beyond the arc against the Black Bears.

The junior class returns two in Kandis Taylor (Sunrise, Fla.) and Brooke Bjelko (Plattsburgh, N.Y.). Bejlko emerged as a dominant force on the blocks for the Bulldogs. The towering 6-3 center notched a double-double to help Bryant come back from a double-digit fourth-quarter deficit at Mount St. Mary's before notching two additional double-digit performances.

Taylor recorded solid minutes for the Black and Gold last season at the guard spot as she made her first career start at Hartford early in December. At Hartford, Taylor was one point shy of tying her career-high in scoring while also tallying one steal and an assist in the non-conference game.

Sophomore Trinity Bravo (Bridgeport, Conn.) looks to spend more time on the hardwood this season after appearing in 29 games during her rookie campaign. Bravo saw the most time on Jan. 21 as she helped the Bulldogs to a 66-63 win at home over Saint Francis U by dropping six points and grabbing a career-high seven rebounds in 26 minutes of play.

The Black and Gold adds a freshman class who is no stranger to high-level competition. Nicole Gallagher (Foxboro, Mass.), Taylor McNamara (Millville, Mass.), Shannon O'Connor (Wrentham, Mass.), and Alana Perkins (Wauwatosa, Wis.) will contribute at the guard position while Blanca Chasco (Barcelona, Spain) and Abbie Eads (Petersburg, Va.) add height to Bryant's backcourt. Five of Bryant's six rookies played at competitive prep high schools just one year ago as Gallagher and Perkins earned All-NEPSAC honors to conclude their high school seasons. Gallagher led Tabor Academy to the AA Finals finishing the season with an impressive 25-2 mark. Perkins helped lead Wilbraham Monson Academy to the Class C semifinal game after draining a buzzer-beater in the quarterfinal round.

Chasco is the first player from a European country to wear the Black and Gold since Sophia Neubauer from Berlin, Germany in 2016. The 6-2 and 6-3 duo of Chasco and Eads look to bring height and power to Bryant who is known for producing dominant forces down low.

The Black and Gold also welcomed Marcus Reilly to the staff earlier this year. Reilly brings an abundance of experience and knowledge to Smithfield after spending the last eight seasons with Rhode Island. 

After the short trip to Brown on Tuesday to kick off the season, Bryant returns to Smithfield for its home opener on Saturday, Nov. 9 against New Hampshire at 1 p.m. Tickets for Saturday's home opener are available HERE.

Bryant Women's Basketball 2019-20 season tickets are available by clicking HERE.

Be sure to follow the women's basketball team all season long on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.