Colonials look to improve on last year’s 10th-place finish
Once a juggernaut of the Northeast Conference, the Robert Morris women’s basketball team has experienced growing pains since making the leap to the Horizon League in 2020.
Last year has a promising start, with the Colonials rattling off four consecutive wins to begin their campaign. Conference play also began on a high note, as RMU knocked off Wright State. The momentum began to evaporate towards the start of the new year when they dropped 10 out of 11 conference games between late December and early February. After losing two Horizon League games to close out the regular season, the Colonials fell in the conference tournament to seventh-seeded Milwaukee, 64-58.
Overall, Robert Morris finished 11-19 with a 5-15 record in conference play. Both numbers were significant drops compared to the 2021-22 season, where the team took a big step forward by finishing 14-15 overall and an even 11-11 in Horizon League contests.
One silver lining was the Colonials’ ability to win at home, where they finished 9-7. While the building hosting the games has changed quite a bit over the last decade for Robert Morris, the team has consistently found a way to defend their home court. In fact, they haven’t posted a losing record in home games since the 2012-13 season. Road games, however, were a much different story, as RMU posted an abysmal 2-12 record last season. Look for the Colonials to change that narrative this year as they continue to get familiar with their newest foes.
Speaking of change, it was a common theme amongst the RMU roster this offseason. Coach Charlie Buscaglia acknowledged the need to build chemistry by stating, “A lot of newcomers, so the goal was to get some chemistry and bond together. I thought we did a great job of that.” He continued by adding, “The drills have got to be intense, practice has got to be fast-paced and they’ve got to be ready to work together in quick moments. They got to overcome adversity in a drill real quickly.”
In terms of departures, Sol Castro transferred to the University of San Franciciso after missing all of last season due to surgery. In her previous two seasons, Castro started 45 games and became the first freshman to lead RMU in scoring since the 2000-01 season.
Mackenzie Amalia, a native of the Pittsburgh region, flocked to New York to play for Canisius after starting 30 games for Robert Morris last season. Forward Phoenix Gedeon made the jump to St. John’s after leading the team in scoring and rebounding with 13 points and 8.3 boards per game.
Like most mid-major programs in the new transfer portal era, RMU’s new roster consists of some familiar faces and a healthy crop of new talent via incoming freshmen and transfers.
Danielle Vuletich – Vuletich got the starting nod just three times last year but proved her worth by averaging nearly 20 minutes a game. Vuletich was second in scoring with an average of 7.8 points per game and averaged 4.8 rebounds, good for third on the team. She is currently listed as one of two true centers on the team, with the other being freshman Camila Bozan out of Chile. Expect Vuletich to take a big step this year with an increased role and more minutes.
“This year, I feel like out of all the years I’ve been here, has been the easiest for us to gel,” said Vuletich. “We’re always hanging out in someone’s room, going to lunch together, going to dinner, going downtown to Pittsburgh.”
Simone Morris – RMU will return a good amount of its backcourt from last year, including junior guard Simone Morris. Morris made significant strides from her first season as a Colonial, where she started 16 games, by starting in all 30 matchups last year. She combatted some shooting struggles and finished the season averaging 7.7 points per game, five rebounds, and led the team in blocks with 16. Look for her to gain more confidence in her shooting stroke this season after shooting just 29.9% from the field last year.
Rebecca Dwomoh – Dwomoh will join Morris as another trusted guard in Charlie Buscaglia’s lineup. Like Morris, she also stands at 5-10 and racked up an impressive 11 blocks on defense. Offensively, she averaged 7.1 points per game and led RMU with 19 points in its impressive 31-point win over Oakland last year. Expect the duo of Morris and Dwomoh to take a leadership role on this team and help usher in the new wave of Colonials.
Alejandra Mastral – With a lot of experienced guards and new bigs, I expect Robert Morris to play a guard-heavy lineup. Mastral fits in nicely with her counterparts as a solid ball distributor after tallying 1.9 assists in addition to 6.5 points per contest. Mastral also managed to swipe the ball away from opposing offenses with 43 steals, a team-high, but she will look to take care of the ball more herself after committing 55 turnovers. Her tenacious defense will be counted on as the speedy guards look to capitalize on scoring chances.
When speaking about the challenge of the Horizon League, Mastral stated, “The Horizon League is a really competitive conference. The challenge is always there, so what we need to do to overcome the challenge is to work as a team and go hard in practice every single day.”
Naomi Barnwell – At 6-1, Barnwell will compliment Vuletich well down low. Hailing from France, Barnwell last played at Monroe College, where she regularly appeared in the starting lineup. She averaged 8.7 points, 5.1 rebounds, and scored in double figures 10 times. Expect some growing plays as she tests the Horizon League waters, but don’t be surprised if Barnwell meshes nicely with her new teammates.
Stephanie Theodossakos – Another transfer, Theodossakos spent last season at the University of Tampa. Now, the junior guard and Florida native looks to heat up the chilly winters in Moon Township by adding a spark to the RMU lineup. While only appearing in a handful of games during her years at Tampa, Theodossakos provides Robert Morris with some veteran depth at guard who can find a nice spot in the rotation.
Louella Allana – Allana will also be a trusted guard off the bench. She appeared in 28 games, starting two, and could be tapped into a starting role this year from time to time. Her distribution will be much appreciated, as she racked up 67 assists last year, good for second on the team.
Natalie Johnson – Yet another trusted guard, Johnson came off the bench in all 30 games last season as a freshman. Despite only playing about 10 minutes per game, Johnson knocked down 38.8% of her shots and made the most out of her opportunities. Expect her to get more minutes this year and make some noticeable contributions.
Paris Kirk – Finally, a forward! Kirk stands at 6-2 and could be a valuable asset for this Colonials’ frontcourt. She may even start at the beginning of the year until Barnwell gets acclimated with the Horizon League style of play. Kirk showed some flashes last season by averaging three rebounds per game and scoring 19 points in a win against Waynesburg. She will likely see a big bump in minutes this year and be trusted to get crucial rebounds in pivotal moments.
Tuana Coskun – Standing six feet tall, Coskun comes to RMU with a decorated high school resume that featured back-to-back state titles. She averaged 12.4 points per game, 3.8 rebounds, and one assist per game and could play a key role down low from the early going.
Robert Morris has a great mix of old and new faces and could be poised for a decent season this year. With that in mind, their ceiling still isn’t where it used to be in their former conference. I think the Colonials could win some big games and surprise a few people this year, but I believe they will still finish towards the bottom of the league.
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