Senior guard Mei-Lyn Bautista knows she won’t be a Colonial forever.
That’s why she’s heading into her senior season with the goal to leave a legacy in the women’s basketball program that will outlive her. The outspoken guard may not hold any program records, but she’s known as a “fiery” leader on the court with a win-first mentality and constant desire to challenge herself.
“That’s one of my biggest goals,” Bautista said. “When I leave here, I want the mentality that I have to be set in stone for them.”
Bautista, now one of the team’s three captains, was called up as a sophomore to run the floor behind a trio of experienced guards in head coach Jennifer Rizzotti’s first year leading the program.
As she’s grown, Bautista has taken full ownership of the point guard position, starting all but one matchup last season. In 20 of those contests, she committed one or fewer turnovers and owned a 2.8 assists to turnover ratio that was second-best in the Atlantic 10. She did not commit a single postseason turnover on her way to helping the Colonials capture the A-10 Championship last season.
“I have a senior point guard who’s playing the best basketball of her career and is completely in sync with what I want, how I want to play and what I want to do,” Rizzotti said.
But Bautista still has work to do before she hangs up her buff and blue uniform at the end of the 2018-19 season. She averaged 8.1 points per game last season, a total Rizzotti said she expects to increase this year to fill the scoring void created by the departure of 2018-graduates Brianna Cummings and Kelli Prange, the top two scorers last season.
As one of three seniors on the team, Bautista’s teammates look to her for advice and guidance. Freshman guard Maddie Loder – who is expected to play as a backup point guard this season – said she uses Bautista as a model for her own development as a point guard in the program.
During her own freshman year, Bautista averaged over 11 minutes per game off the bench and dropped a total of 95 points – mostly from her 25 three-pointers, good for second on the squad.
Bautista said her experience playing significant minutes all four years of her career – the only senior on the squad with that designation – gives her a unique perspective to help her younger teammates who will be expected to contribute right away.
“When Mei is on the floor, the energy is so much different than when she’s off,” Loder said. “She makes such a huge difference that we all have to learn from it.”
Her ability to lead goes beyond her position. Despite playing as a point guard her entire college career, Bautista’s in-depth knowledge of the game has made her a valuable resource for players in all positions on the court.
“Mei will tell me how to post up, how to rebound,” 6-foot-4-inch freshman center Kayla Mokwuah said. “She’s a small point guard, but she knows it.”
As the true floor general for the Colonials, Bautista’s energy is matched by her selfless nature as she pushes her limits and supports teammates to do the same, redshirt sophomore forward and fellow captain Sarah Overcash said.
“She wants to give everyone else a shot,” Overcash said. “She will pass up her shot and be even more excited when you score.”
With the team struggling to fill the backup point guard role this year, Bautista will continue to run the floor with her relentless energy.
She said spending the last two seasons under Rizzotti, one of the most accomplished point guards in women’s basketball, put her in the best possible position for her final season.
“She always tells me, ‘you’re doing great right now but be better, you can always be better,’” Bautista said. “That’s what’s so awesome about her, she’s never content and satisfied with me, and that’s why I think that’s who I am right now.”