Some things just go naturally together; bacon and eggs, milk and cookies, the sun and the moon, Batman and Robin, for example.
For the Rowan women’s basketball team, it’s guards Valerie Garofalo and Anyssa Sanchez.
The junior duo might not be a household combo yet, but if they keep up their play that’s helped pace Rowan to a perfect start, they soon will be.
Behind Sanchez’s aggressive, driving mentality and Garofalo’s energetic yet in-control play, mixed in with three graduate-student starters, the Profs have won their first seven games for the second year in a row.
Head coach Gabby Lisella said Garofalo sees the team in a big-picture sense.
“I always say Val’s never had a bad day and it’s tough to have a bad day if you’re around her. She does a lot to motivate our team,” head coach Gabby Lisella said. “Val is more of a playmaker and gets people involved. In addition to all the things she brings on the court, her attitude is her biggest contribution.”
Garofalo is a full-time starter for Rowan this year after logging 571 minutes and three starts in 25 games a season ago.
She has been dynamic for the team thus far, averaging six points, five assists and three rebounds per game. Surprisingly, the 5-foot-5-inch Garofalo also leads the team in blocks.
“Every time I try to block a shot, coach says, ‘you gotta close out, you’re not a shot blocker,’ but who’s leading the team?” Garofalo said. “I don’t know what to say about that. I try not to foul. I guess I’m just sneaky. Or the refs don’t see the foul.”
Playing opposite of Garofalo is Sanchez, who, unlike her backcourt mate, started 25 of 26 games last season. Sanchez says she’s “pretty confident” in her role with the team.
Lisella commended the second-year starter’s work ethic and athletic ability.
“She’s always in the gym working on improving her game, just a steady performer whose athleticism is incredible,” Lisella said. “She’s a slasher who’s worked hard to develop an outside shot. She’s always been a good defender on the ball.”
That aspect of her game has been especially evident this year as Sanchez leads the team with 21 steals. Garofalo is a close second with 20.
“We’re the top of the press and that’s where the pressure is the most so we just tip the ball or whatever,” Garofalo said. “It’s just high intensity and in your face.”
“It’s all about aggression, Val’s great at that,” Sanchez said. “She says I’m quick, but I think she’s one of the quickest on the team.”
Sanchez has also been getting it done offensively, currently averaging 12 points per game while shooting around 58 percent.
“It’s just that aggression and taking the ball to the basket,” Sanchez said. “I get my shots when I can but I think overall as a team we have that equal balance of who can take that shot and who can take it to the basket, which [is] pretty much anyone on the team. I think we’re gonna keep being successful if we play like that.”
With a 74-46 blowout win over conference rival The College of New Jersey on Wednesday night, Rowan has started the season at 8-0, mirroring the team’s undefeated start a year ago. Garofalo and Sanchez combined for 16 points and 10 rebounds in the victory.
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