For three years, women’s basketball could rely on former floor general Mei-Lyn Bautista to handle the ball. But the team is heading into the season with three different options at the point.
Sophomore Maddie Loder filled the role as 2019-graduate Bautista’s understudy, but point guard options were still scant, with redshirt freshman Tori Hyduke relegated to the sidelines with an ACL injury and redshirt junior Sydney Zambrotta forced to sit out per NCAA transfer rules. Head coach Jennifer Rizzotti said all three players are now healthy and eligible this season, providing the team with newfound depth at the position.
“Between the three of them, I feel that we have a lot more versatility in our point guard options,” Rizzotti said.
Bautista assumed the point guard job full-time in her sophomore season, running the floor for each season afterward.
She started all 28 games she played in, missing two games down the stretch after suffering from a concussion. Bautista demonstrated versatility on both sides of the ball, ranking second on the team with 9.3 points per game and earning All-Defensive Team honors during her senior season.
Assists were Bautista’s bread and butter, dishing out 3.9 helpers per game to notch third in the Atlantic 10 last season.
She cemented herself in program history, racking up 404 assists to rank seventh all-time. Firing at a .320 clip in her four years as a Colonial, Bautista also sits at No. 7 all-time in three-point field goals made.
Rizzotti said filling Bautista’s shoes will take time because Hyduke and Zambrotta have not yet experienced real-game scenarios, but the added depth will bolster the squad’s scoring opportunities from the point guard position.
“I don’t have someone in the program that just all of a sudden becomes a three-year starter,” Rizzotti said. “It’s got to be something that we do by committee, and it’s got to be something that we have patience with.”
Loder returns with the most experience handling the ball, ranking fourth on the team with 770 minutes and starting 14 of the team’s 30 contests. She secured six points per game and dished out 49 assists on the year.
She struggled to keep the ball under control, with 57 turnovers on the season and an average of two turnovers per game. Rizzotti said Loder’s growing pains from the unexpected shift into the point guard position will pay dividends for this season.
“I slid Maddie Loder into that backup point guard role, which wasn’t what she was expecting,” Rizzotti said. “So now this year, she’s more ready to take on ball handling responsibilities.”
In her first taste of competition as a Colonial, Zambrotta posted 13 points in the squad’s exhibition game against Mercyhurst last week. Zambrotta recorded two steals and three assists, but she turned the ball over twice while sharing the point responsibilities with Hyduke.
Junior guard Lexus Levy said Hyduke was the No. 1 point guard on the squad during preseason practices.
“She knows the plays,” Levy said. “She’s been prepared. She studied them while she was out. So coming back, being able to know them and get right into it, I feel like she’s our No. 1 point guard right now.”
Sophomore center Kayla Mokwuah said Bautista will be hard to replace, but Hyduke’s natural point guard tendencies – passing, shooting and vision of the floor – will help set the Colonials up for a strong season.
“There are definitely some people who are looking to inherit some of the roles that she had on the court,” Mokwuah said. “Tori Hyduke is the first person that comes to mind, and I think that she’s a true point guard – great shooter, great passer.”
Hyduke, who earned a starting spot in the squad’s exhibition game, grabbed six points, going 3-of-7 from the field and missing both chances from deep. She added two helpers and one turnover to her performance last week in her role at the point and off the ball.
As a center, Mokwuah said her relationship with the point guard is special because the point guard is someone who can see the layout of the court and hit the center when she’s open.
“They’re the people on the court who can really see you down low and see where you’re open, see where to put the ball into the post,” Mokwuah said. “In the past, I’ve always been the closest with point guards on my team, it’s the center-point guard connection.”