Greece is the word, as Vikings add point guard Goula

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Cleveland State took one more step towards rounding out its roster for next season this week with the addition of Filippa Goula, a transfer point guard with two seasons of eligibility remaining who spent 2022-23 at Saint Francis (PA). Goula, an every-game starter for the Red Flash, committed to the Vikings on Sunday before publicly announcing her pledge on Thursday evening.

SFU finished this past campaign just 7-22 overall, though they bounced back from a guarantee-game-laden 11-game losing streak to start their schedule to finish a reasonable 6-10 within the Northeast Conference. That initial skid, as a matter of coincidence, included games against Horizon League members Robert Morris (also a longtime former NEC rival of the Red Flash, of course) and Youngstown State. The RMU contest was the first of Goula’s Division I career, and though the Colonials won handily, she burst on to the scene with a 12-point effort that included six rebounds, three assists, and two steals.

The 5-6 exercise physiology major (at Saint Francis) knocked down a decisive three-pointer with just over a minute to go against Central Connecticut State on January 28th, and followed up six days later with a season-high 15 points against Merrimack, one of her ten double-digit scoring efforts.

Though Goula is certainly a capable field goal shooter who can attack the basket effectively, her true strength comes through her quick-thinking facilitation and solid defense that should fit in well with the Vikings’ up-tempo style. Her 2.8 assists per game were double the number posted by anyone else on the Red Flash roster, and her 23.6 percent assist rate (the percentage of teammates’ field goals she assisted, while on the floor) was among the top ten percent of all players nationally. Goula recorded five or more helpers six times, while also mixing in things like an eight-rebound game against Coppin State, seven games featuring multiple steals, as well as a possible game-saving defensive play to beat Stonehill on February 2nd.

It’s flawed (in more than one way) to immediately think of incoming players as direct replacements for those leaving, but if you see a little bit of Deja Williams in all of that, you’re not alone. SFU head coach Keila Whittington, upon adding Goula last summer, called her “a tough and gritty point guard” and “someone who [has] a great understanding of the game and [can] help right away.”

If nothing else, she instantly becomes the Vikings’ second-best free throw shooter, behind Destiny Leo – and it’s a close second, as Goula connected on 89.8 percent of her tosses from the charity stripe to rank 39th nationally last season, while Leo’s 91.1 percent placed 27th. Goula gets to show off that talent more often than most thanks to an 18.7 percent free throw rate, which isn’t elite but lies solidly above the national median (it also beat SFU’s below-average 16.0 percent, a sign that adjusting for systems would make her look even better, particularly as she moves on to a CSU team that ranks among the nation’s most aggressive programs).

Prior to her time at Saint Francis, Goula spent two seasons at Colorado-based Northeastern Junior College where, as a sophomore, she led the team with 16.5 points, 4.8 assists and 2.8 steals per game. Her rookie effort was nearly as proficient, with a 13.8/4.4/2.7 line.

Goula is from Ano Liosia, Greece – as of right now, she’s one of four Vikings from outside of the United States – and has frequently been selected for Greek national teams, including at the U16, U18, and U20 levels. Most recently, she competed at the U20 Women’s European Championships in 2022 and helped Greece to a fifth-place finish in Division B (the second tier of the tournament in a promotion-relegation structure). Goula led the team in assists across the tournament’s seven games, averaging 3.6 per outing, and she also chipped in 4.1 points. In 2021, she helped the Greek U20 team dominate four games in Division D of the the European Challengers with 7.3 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.8 steals per game.

CSU’s roster now boasts a backcourt of Goula, Leo, Sara Guerreiro, Shadiya Thomas, Carmen Villalobos, Colbi Maples and Mickayla Perdue (though Perdue may be ineligible for the 2023-24 season). Up front, transfers Brooklynn Fort-Davis and Grace Ellis, along with incoming freshman Paulina Hernandez, will join returning players Jordana Reisma and Faith Burch. The Vikings carried 13 total players last year, including eight guards and five frontcourt players (though one guard, Juila Hintz, missed the whole season). All of that seems to indicate that Chris Kielsmeier is close to finalizing the group that he’ll bring into November, though spots remain open.

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