After a tough season, the Georgetown women’s basketball team is ready to write the next chapter in their story.
For both the returners from last season and newcomers, the 2021-22 season will be about realizing the team’s potential and bouncing back from the challenges of the pandemic. The Hoyas hope to improve from last season and win key games to progress in the Big East standings.
In the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season, the Hoyas faced an overwhelming number of obstacles. Building team chemistry would have been a challenge in any year, given the almost entirely new roster. Due to the pandemic, the Hoyas had little opportunity to practice in person before the season started. A total of 12 games were cancelled or postponed, including all of their fall non-conference games, a stretch crucial for building chemistry and making adjustments. The team, still adapting to multiple roster changes, was thrown into Big East play with little preparation. In the end, the pandemic-induced disruption took its toll. The Hoyas finished eleventh in the Big East with a 2-15 record overall.
Despite the results, rising players like sophomore guards Kelsey Ransom and Yasmin Ott were bright flashes, and the team was one or two bounces away from beating several Big East foes. A survey of players and coaches on the team makes it clear that this year will be different if the Hoyas have anything to say about it.
To beat expectations, several players will have to build on past experience and performance so they’re ready to contend with the best. Most notable is Ransom, primed to be a force in the Big East. She led the Hoyas with 178 points last season and was named to the backcourt of the Big East All-Freshman team. Both Ransom and Ott will seek to improve on progress from last year and further assert themselves as team leaders this season.
In addition to their sophomore backcourt, the Hoyas have added significant depth and experience to the roster during the offseason. In a post-season interview with the Voice, head coach James Howard stressed the need for improved depth and consistency. As a young team, the Hoyas struggled in late-game situations, often committing unforced errors down the stretch in close matchups. To address this weakness, the Hoyas will look for significant contributions from graduate transfers Mary Clougherty and Kaylin West.
Clougherty, who transferred from Lehigh, will provide both needed experience and long distance shooting for the Hoyas. In her last season with the Mountain Hawks, she averaged 11.9 points, 2.6 assistants, and 4.1 rebounds per game, and saw significant playing time in Lehigh’s NCAA Tournament run.
West, a defensive-minded transfer who spent four years at Coastal Carolina University, will also add depth to the roster. Howard is excited to see the former Chanticleer’s stabilizing presence on the court for the Hoyas.
“Kaylin will bring experience to our backcourt. She has a high basketball IQ and strong work ethic and her ability to defend the basketball will fit right in with our defensive philosophy,” he wrote in a press release.
Georgetown will also rely on experience from two key returning players: graduate forward Anita Kelava and senior forward Jillian Archer. Archer returns to the team after controlling the boards last year, averaging 7.3 rebounds per game. Archer cited the last few months of in-person practices as a key advantage for the team this year.
“I think that the spring and summer has really helped us with cohesion and chemistry on the court which you can only carry into a great season.”
Kelava, the 6’3” forward, will join Archer and junior Graceann Bennett in the front court. Kelava, who sat out last season due to visa issues, aims to continue her strong defensive performance from the 2019-20 season while showcasing a more versatile offensive game. As one of the Big East’s leaders in blocks, Kelava will help bolster the team’s defense in the paint. During Big East media day, Kelava stated she hopes to improve in rebounding and scoring to pose a threat on both ends of the floor.
The Hoyas will open the season Nov. 9 at Navy to begin a series of six non-conference games. All the matchups (with the exception of Navy) will be played at home in McDonough Arena through November. Their first Big East games will come against Creighton on Dec. 3 in Omaha and against Providence on Dec. 5 in Providence. Last season, these squads finished in the middle of the Big East and should be a good test for the Hoyas coming out of the non-conference slate.
The Hoyas will then have two easier home games against George Washington and Coppin State before resuming Big East play for good on Dec. 31. Georgetown concludes the regular season with a home game against Butler on Feb. 27.
Although this team hasn’t generated the same level of press as some of its Big East rivals, the Hoyas are a real threat to make some noise in the Big East. The key to their success will be Ransom and Ott continuing to develop and Kelava integrating back into the offense. With improved consistency and more time to prepare for conference play this season, Georgetown will lay the foundation for a team that could easily mount a run as a competitor in the Big East in the next few years.
The team might not be on the same level as UConn, DePaul, and Seton Hall, but they’re ready to shake up league rankings. “I think that last year spoke for itself in our perseverance and our grit through all of the adversity,” Archer said. “We come out on the court every single day—every practice, every game—ready to fight and we’re going to give it our all no matter what.”
Ransom echoed that sentiment. For her, the team’s unity will be their biggest strength as they look to shake up the league.
“As long as we stay together, I don’t think anything can stand in our way.”
Starting Lineup: Ransom, Ott, Milan Bolden-Morris, Archer, Kelava
Team MVP: Kelsey Ransom
Biggest Win: Home vs. Villanova (Jan. 9)
Record: 10-18 (9th in the Big East)