Head Coach Demetrius Poles in a huddle with the team last season. The team has resumed practicing in preparation for next season. - Photo / Rowan Athletics

Rowan’s women’s basketball team answered the call last season by defeating Montclair State University in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) championship game last year.

As a new year approaches, their potential is soaring to new heights as they set their eyes on the national championship.

Last year’s NJAC championship win was the first since ‘98-99, which they won in their own gymnasium. For newly-elected senior Captain Alexis Kriley, it was more than just a championship.

“For me, personally, I only made it to the second round of the NJAC tournament since I was here. I have never beat Montclair since I was here,” Kriley said. “We’ve only beaten them twice and it was this past season….we knew what we were capable of doing and we just did it, and it was an outstanding feeling.”

The women’s basketball team was one of the first to experience how sports are played now, with barely — if any — fans at all in the stands, back in March. When playing against Amherst University in the Division III NCAA tournament, they were informed that no one would be able to attend the game half an hour before tip-off.

“It was crazy,” Kriley said. “It felt like we were scrimmaging in practice or an AAU game, and it felt like the stakes were lower.” 

With her new role as captain, Kriley wants to elevate her game to the next level while also bringing fire and energy to the court.

“Regardless of how the team was doing or how I was doing, I like to bring energy and be loud, and keep my head up and make sure my teammates keep their heads up,” Kriley said. “I want to be that person that keeps looking forward so we can fight through when we’re down, and not get complacent when we’re up.”

Alexis Kriley taking a shot during a game last season. Kriley was one of five players named captain this year. – Photo / Rowan Athletics

As for her own goals, Kriley is working toward improving her skill.

“I’ve been working on my left hand,” Kriley said. “Finishing at the basket with my left hand and having more versatility with how I can score.”

A major credit to how the lady Profs play on the court, and how they carry themselves off of it, is credited to new Head Coach Demetrius Poles.

Poles stepped in as interim head coach for long-time coach Gabby Lisella after her retirement and didn’t disappoint, leading the girls to an NJAC championship and the Division III NCAA tournament.

Coach Poles is an alum to Rowan University and was part of the 1996 championship squad as the team’s leading rebounder, and hit one of the biggest shots in university history with a tip-in.

With championship pedigree, he tells his girls that that could be them.

“When we go to practice, I tell them to look at the wall, and they look at our national championship banner,” Poles said. “And I tell them that definitely can be you. You have all the tools, you have all the makeup of a national champion.”

Senior Juliette Tobin was also promoted to captain for this upcoming season and has wasted no time, using this quarantine period to get her body healthy and her basketball skills ready.

“I’ve taken advantage of lifting at home to get stronger, and shooting out front of my house everyday since the courts were closed,” Tobin said. “I’ve definitely had the mindset of this being my last year…throughout this offseason for motivation to constantly get better over these past few months.”

Tobin doesn’t want to change how she approaches the game or her teammates. With her responsibilities now magnified as a captain, she wants to continue to be vocal on the court.

“I’ve always been someone who is extremely vocal and have always found it helpful for myself and my teammates to communicate throughout the whole practice,” Tobin said. “The most important aspect of this role for me is to continue to establish a positive, hardworking and inviting culture for my current team and those following me.”

Juliette Tobin going up for a layup during a game last season. Tobin was also one of five players named captain this year. – Photo / Rowan Athletics

Practices are still being held; however, due to COVID-19 regulations, the girls are not allowed to have a full 5-on-5 scrimmage and must keep their masks on while practicing.

With the time ticking, the girls are sure to be ready for the start of the season, and with Kriley and Tobin chirping on defense, the Profs are on their way to becoming back-to-back champions. Next stop: NCAA championship.

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