GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — The Stockton University women’s basketball team will rely on its four senior leaders to mentor the seven new players who have joined the Ospreys.

“I think our strongest asset is our experience. We are led by four

seniors, and they know its their last year, so they’re riding on that,” Ospreys coach Joe Fussner said Monday as his team prepared for Wednesday’s season opener at Baruch College in New York.

“We’re trying to mix those seven in with the returning players, and most of our preseason has been centered around that.”

Senior forward Sasha Williams was the first player to be named New Jersey Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year for three consecutive years. Williams also scored her 1,000th career point and was selected NJAC first team last season. The Cherry Hill native returned this preseason glad to see that the new players share her goals for success.

“It’s great, honestly. The new girls come in, and they want to work, and we want to work,” Williams said. “They just come in and they just know what we’re here to do this year.”

Senior forward Najha Treadwell, who has received NJAC honors for the past three years, also has noticed the benefits of new teammates.

“They all add something to the table that we desperately need,” Treadwell said. “It’s nice being around different people because they can teach you things you probably didn’t know. I’m a senior, and I’m learning from them, and they’re learning from me.”

Senior guard Lea Mendolla earned NJAC Honorable Mention last season and led Stockton in steals (69), 3-pointers (58) and 3-point field goal percentage (38.7).

“I would probably say that I’m not the most vocal leader, but I think I have more of a presence on the court as a leader. Just working hard every play, never taking a play off.” she said.

Rounding out the senior quartet is Amy Loyola, a forward from Camden who has been part of the program since her freshman year.

Loyola, Mendolla, Treadwell and Williams led the Ospreys to a 17-9 record last season. The Ospreys suffered a tough 65-62 loss against Rutgers-Newark in the first round of the NJAC Tournament.

“Last year was kind of a disappointing year, and I think they’re carrying that disappointment over as a goal,” Fussner said.

The seniors and Fussner want to win the conference and make the NCAA Division III Tournament this season. Montclair State has won the NJAC five times in a row.

“Our schedule is always hard because that’s the way I like it, but in particular this year, it’s tough, and I’m admitting it,” said Fussner, who is in his 21st year coaching at Stockton. “It’s a schedule that is really going to challenge them, and I think that they’re ready to be challenged by it.”

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