Marchesano’s third campaign aims to expound on last season’s strengths
Year 3 of a rebuild is often when a staff begins to see the true fruits of their labor on the scoreboard. Coach Maria Marchesano and her staff have raised the expectations of Purdue Fort Wayne to levels that haven’t been around the program in decades, or maybe even ever. The Mastodons have gone from one win the year prior to Marchesano taking over, to nine wins in 2021-2022 and 14 wins in 2022-23. Those 14 wins are the most since the 2013-14 season (15) for the ‘Dons. Expectations are at such a high level because PFW finished last season playing the best ball of their season, making it to the semi-finals of the Horizon League Tournament before bowing out to top-seeded Green Bay in a back-and-forth battle that eventually ended up a 4-point deficit (69-65). Within that late season surge were wins over Youngstown St., Northern Kentucky and IUPUI. Not only did the ‘Dons finish strong last February, but now return 9 players, including 6 that made up the starting line-up in all but 3 games.
Marchesano stated “Our core group of juniors and seniors want to see this thing through. They’ve seen this program at its lowest and they’ve dedicated a lot of hard work to turning this thing around and I think for them, that feeling of accomplishment has been more rewarding than anything else.”
Many programs around the country have had major roster turnover with transfers coming and going. PFW (to their credit) has largely kept the core of the group together. While the ‘Dons have not added any transfers this season, Marchesano and staff have added 3 very talented Freshmen. All 3 are poised to play important roles right away on a roster that sits at 12. The excitement around this program has risen tremendously over the past 2 seasons. Local media coverage, attendance and overall support for the Dons is at an all-time high. The culture that Marchesano and her staff have built is apparent on and off the court. Players continue to say it in interviews and their play backs it up. The ‘Dons are not backing away from the continued growth of expectations in the win column.
Audra Emmerson – Emmerson’s stats don’t jump off the page. However, she brings a competitive edge this team thrives off. Started 15 of 33 games last season. Averaged just over 23 minutes per game. Shot 40% from 3pt land. Audra is your favorite player’s favorite player. She is undersized, gritty, fearless and seems to have a knack for making a big shot or play in big moments.
Destinee Marshall – Starting 22 of 28 games played and averaging just over 21 minutes a game, it took Marshall a good portion of the season to find her groove. But was a key reason why the ‘Dons finished strong. Marshall brings a great deal of athleticism and experience back for her Senior season.
Ryin Ott – Ott started 19 of 33 games in her sophomore season, averaging almost 20 minutes per game. Ott’s scoring and shooting numbers were down from her freshmen season as she battled through a few different injuries throughout the season. Look for a bounce back year in Ott’s junior season. Her length and athleticism add a great deal that don’t show up on the box score.
Amelia Bromenschenkel – Bromenschenkel started 32 out of 33 games and averaged a team high 32 minutes per game. Bromenschenkel started the season on record pace averaging 20 points per game and shooting over 60% from behind the arc through Nov. 20th. She finished as the team’s leading scorer and rebounder at 12.5 ppg and 5.2 rpg, and was award Third Team All-Horizon League. Constantly looking for ways to improve her game on both ends, expect for to take another big step forward this season.
Shayla Sellers – Returning for her fifth year (COVID), Marchesano noted, “Having Shay back for one more year has been a huge blessing. She raises the level of competitiveness and focus every single day. More than any other player I’ve ever coached, she brings intensity every day and as a coach, you can’t ask for anything more. I’m excited to see her lead our group this year.”
She started all 33 games. Averaged nearly 30 minutes per game. Put up 10.3 ppg and 4.3 rpg, while shooting over 85% from the charity stripe. Sellers gets it done on both ends of the floor making the Horizon All-Defensive Team. Sellers is the heart and soul of the ‘Dons and is relied upon to do anything and everything needed to win a ball game.
Jazzlyn Linbo – Having started all 33 games and averaged over 20 minutes per game, 6.2 ppg and 4.2 rpg, Linbo is the anchor in the middle of the defense and provides the size the ‘Dons need to rebound and defend the outstanding post players in the Horizon League. Linbo has consistently improved her game on both ends of the floor, but especially on the offensive end where she has become a very solid passer and finisher at the rim.
Other Key Returners/Newcomers
Renna Schwieterman – A 6-0 freshmen coming from Jay County High School, just over an hour from Fort Wayne, Schwieterman had an outstanding high school career scoring over 1700 points over 4 years. Inside/outside dynamic offensive game that should transition to the Horizon League immediately.
Konstantina Mantziori – Mantziori is a point guard from Greece originally, but played her high school ball at Cardinal Gibbons in Florida. Provides depth at the point guard position and has a flash to her game that ‘Dons fans will love to watch. Quick, on the ball defender that will give lineup options.
Erin Woodson – A 6-0 wing from Richmond, Virginia, Woodson shoots the ball at high level and will only help the ‘Dons offensive firepower. Her length and athleticism will allow her to fit in nicely with the returners to provide wing depth, and problems for the opposing team.
It’s safe to say Marchesano feels really good about this class…”Renna, Erin, and K have been great additions to our program. They each bring different strengths to the table and have meshed well with the squad in a short amount of time.”
PFW has improved by leaps and bounds the past 2 seasons. The Mastodons have went from the bottom of the Horizon league to a legitimate contender. While it’s difficult to predict just how good some of the other teams in the Horizon League will be with roster turnover, the ‘Dons having much of their key players back from a semi-final appearance, are hungry for more. Marchesano stated, “For us to take the next step, we have to be consistent from beginning to end. We have shown flashes of being a really good team in the past, but we’ve got to be able to do that night in and night out.”
Last year PFW pulled off some upsets against some of the perennial top teams in the Horizon League (Youngstown, Milwaukee, IUPUI, Northern Kentucky) meanwhile knocking off the majority of the teams in the lower tier. This all resulted in a 6th place finish and squarely in the middle of the pack of the conference standings. The goal is clear for the ‘Dons. They want to finish in the top echelon of the conference and go after a tournament championship. PFW is not shying away from these lofty goals, but will they have enough to challenge those top teams and as Marchesano has stated “win games consistently, even on off nights.” That often separates the top teams from the middle of the pack teams. We will see how it plays out on the court, but one thing is for sure the ‘Dons are relevant again, which has been a long time coming for the Fort Wayne faithful.
HoriZone Roundtable Prediction
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