By Jeff Griffith
The greater Philadelphia area is loaded with noteworthy Division III women’s basketball programs, and saw four reach the 2023 NCAA Tournament. With many top schools returning a wealth of their production from last season, the upcoming campaign should be another strong showing for the area’s women’s squads.
With the regular season just days away, here are our Division III women’s preseason rankings for the 2023-24 season:
Megan Bealer and DeSales are coming of a 27-win season in 2022-23. (Photo: Courtesy DeSales Athletics)
1. DeSales Bulldogs
Head Coach: Fred Richter, 33rd season
Last Year: 27-2 (15-1 MAC Freedom)
Key Departures: Abigail Rafferty (10.5 ppg, 8.4 rpg), Kate Early (4.5 ppg, 2.5 rpg), Maria Newsome (4.2 ppg, 1.5 rpg)
Key Returners: Megan Bealer (14.5 ppg, 6.1 rpg), Mikaela Reese (11.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg), Lindsey Welsh (10.1 ppg, 5.0 rpg), Amelia Saunders (7.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg)
DeSales returns plenty of production from the area’s top team from a year ago; the Bulldogs consistently held the top spot in CoBL’s area rankings and lost just once in the regular season — a one-point loss at nationally-ranked Stevens. Behind a balanced effort, featuring notable contributions from talented returners like forward Megan Bealer, forward Mikaela Reese and guard Lindsey Welsh — all of whom are now seniors — DeSales reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament and landed at No. 17 in d3hoops.com’s final national rankings. With four of their top six scorers back and all entering their senior seasons, the Bulldogs are likely poised for another standout season.
First Five: at Muhlenberg (Nov. 14), vs. Saint Elizabeth (Nov. 18), vs. TBD (Nov. 19), at Moravian (Nov. 21), at Marywood (Nov. 27)
2. Elizabethtown Blue Jays
Head Coach: Veronica Nolt, 9th season
Last Year: 23-5 (11-3 Landmark)
Key Departures: Kaeli Romanowski (5.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg)
Key Returners: Summer McNulty (18.3 ppg, 2.8 rpg), DaniRae Renno (13.9 ppg, 8.3 rpg), Cyleigh Wilson (8.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg), Jessica King (8.6 ppg, 6.9 rpg), Lindsay Boyd (6.4 ppg, 2.7 rpg)
In 2022-23, Elizabeth put together a 23-5 campaign, reached the Landmark Conference championship game and second round of the NCAA Tournament, and finished just outside of d3hoops.com’s season-ending rankings, and did it all with the majority of its production coming from sophomores and juniors. The Blue Jay’s top two scorers from last season, CoBL all-area player of the year Summer McNulty and second-team selection DaniRae Renno, are both rising juniors, and combined to average over 30 points a year ago. In total, Elizabethtown brings back eight of its top nine scorers from the 2022-23 season, including its top five, and should be poised to duplicate if not build upon last year’s success.
First Five: vs. Dickinson (Nov. 11), vs. Misericordia (Nov. 14), vs. East Texas Baptist (Nov. 17), at Christopher Newport (Nov. 19), vs. Lebanon Valley (Nov. 22)
3. Messiah Falcons
Head Coach: Mike Miller, 37th season
Last Year: 26-3 (16-0 MAC Commonwealth)
Key Departures: Megan Zimmerman (11.4 ppg, 6.8 rpg), Amber High (8.3 ppg, 2.6 rpg)
Key Returners: Reese Harden (12.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg), Morgan Adams (10.9 ppg, 8.0 rpg), Chloe Milanesi (7.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg)
The defending MAC Commonwealth champions, who reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament, ripped off an undefeated conference season a year ago, with one of their two regular season losses coming at area No. 1 DeSales. A good portion of Messiah’s production from 2022-23 returns this season, including all-area second team selection Reese Harden and fourth-team selection Morgan Adams, the team’s leading rebounder. Zimmerman and High are tough upperclassmen to lose, but between Harden, Adams, key role players and Mike Miller’s winning pedigree, Messiah should still belong within the area’s top strata in 2023-24.
First Five: vs. Delaware Valley (Nov. 10), vs. TBD (Nov. 11), at Dickinson (Nov. 15), vs. Penn State Altoona (Nov. 21), at Misericordia (Nov. 30)
Mackenzie Szlosek leads a deep returning core for Gettysburg. (Photo: Gettysburg Athletics)
4. Gettysburg Bullets
Head Coach: Nate Davis, 9th season
Last Year: 21-7 (16-4 Centennial)
Key Departures: Megan Barbera (2.4 ppg, 2.0 rpg)
Key Returners: Mackenzie Szlosek (13.4 ppg, 6.3 rpg), Alayna Arnolie (10.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg), Emily Violante (8.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg), Shinya Lee (6.2 ppg, 7.1 rpg)
Gettysburg extended its streak of 20-win seasons to six last season, won a Centennial Conference title, and earned a trip to the NCAA Tournament before falling to SUNY New Paltz in the first round. The brightest spot on the Bullets’ successful season was Mackenzie Szlosek, now a junior who led the way in scoring, tacked on the team’s second-highest rebounding average, shot an efficient .474/.388/.763, and earned Centennial Conference Player of the Year and WBCA All-American honors. She’s not alone, though. Gettysburg brings back each of its starters from last year’s 21-7 squad, including Centennial Conference Rookie of the Year Alayna Arnolie.
First Five: vs. Baldwin Wallace (Nov. 10), vs. TBD (Nov. 11), vs. Eastern (Nov. 15), at Johns Hopkins (Nov. 21), vs. Franklin & Marshall (Nov. 28)
5. Alvernia Wolves
Head Coach: Rayne deMarteleire, 5th season
Last Year: 20-10 (11-5 MAC Commonwealth)
Key Departures: Cathryn Kramer (6.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg)
Key Returners: Jordan Karmonick (11.2 ppg, 7.4 rpg), Kayla Williams (11.2 ppg, 7.3 rpg), Taliyah Malone (10.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg), Tamia Wessels (10.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg)
In five years under deMarteleire, Alvernia’s program has turned it around considerably; the Wolves were 3-22 in the last year before hiring deMarteleire, but have won nine, 12, and 20 games respectively in her three full-length seasons at the helm. Last year was a breakout year, as Alvernia racked up 20 wins, won double-digit conference games, reached the MAC Commonwealth championship game and won a pair of ECAC Tournament contests. With four returning double-digit scorers, including all-conference First Team selection Jordan Karmonick, Alvernia should have a good chance to build upon its upward momentum in 2023-24.
First Five: vs. Catholic (Nov. 11), vs. Rutgers-Newark (Nov. 12), at William Paterson (Nov. 15), at Stockton (Nov. 18), vs. Penn State Brandywine (Nov. 21)
6. Dickinson Red Devils
Head Coach: Aby Diop, 3rd season
Last Year: 17-8 (14-5 Centennial Conference)
Key Departures: Kate Montgomery (8.2 ppg, 5.7 rpg), Mia Kolb (7.3 ppg, 4.2 rpg)
Key Returners: Clair Marion (14.0 ppg, 4.7 rpg), Caitlin Blackman (7.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg), Lindsey Hollenshead (5.9 ppg, 4.7 rpg), Mia Chapman (4.9 ppg, 2.7 rpg)
A strong 2022-23 campaign skidded to a halt for Dickinson, as a first round upset loss in the Centennial Conference Tournament snapped a regular season-ending stretch that saw the Red Devils win seven of eight. Clair Marion, a Centennial Conference first-teamer last year, returns for her junior season after leading the way in scoring a year ago, and is one of three returning starters alongside junior guard Caitlin Blackman and senior forward Lindsey Hollenshead The Red Devils will be tested right out of the gate this season, opening the slate with a pair of contests againsts teams in the top three of our preseason list.
First Five: at Elizabethtown (Nov. 11), vs. Messiah (Nov. 15), vs. McDaniel (Nov. 21), at Muhlenberg (Nov. 30), vs. Swarthmore (Dec. 2)
Albright's Mackenzie Dover is the team's top returning scorer at 12.7 ppg. (Photo: Courtesy Albright Athletics)
7. Albright Lions
Head Coach: Janice Luck, 27th season
Last Year: 18-8 (12-4 MAC Commonwealth)
Key Departures: Gabby Boggs (14.1 ppg, 10.8 rpg), Amina Rauf (12.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg)
Key Returners: Mackenzie Dover (12.7 ppg, 6.9 rpg), Orianna Edmond (7.3 ppg, 6.5 rpg), Julia Zakovitch (5.1 ppg, 2.9 rpg), CJ Apistar (3.5 ppg, 2.7 rpg), Lindsey Williamson (2.7 ppg, 2.0 rpg)
Albright ripped off five consecutive wins — and 10 in its last 11 games — to finish the regular season at a solid mark of 18-7 last year, but fell early in the MAC Commonwealth conference tournament to rival Alvernia. The loss of Gabby Boggs, a CoBL 2022-23 all-area first-teamer, certainly hurts as does the loss of fellow double-digit scorer Amina Rauf, but junior Mackenzie Dover proved more than capable of leading the way in a productive 2022-23 campaign. A pair of sophomores, Julia Zakovitch and C.J. Apistar — both of whom were among Albright’s top six scorers last season — will be looked to for more production on a relatively new-look roster.
First Five: vs. TBD (Nov. 10), vs. Goucher College (Nov. 11), vs. Moravian (Nov. 18), at Penn State Scranton (Nov. 20), vs. Marymount (Nov. 28)
8. Penn State Harrisburg Lions
Head Coach: Ross Patrick, 16th season
Last Year: 17-10 (13-3 United East)
Key Departures: Kendis Butler (9.2 ppg, 3.4 rpg), Olivia Richardson (6.3 ppg, 4.2 rpg)
Key Returners: Ciani Redd-Howard (10.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg), Jayla Galbreath (9.9 ppg, 2.2 rpg), Bailey Oehmig (7.8 ppg, 5.6 rpg), Jenna Montana (6.0 ppg, 3.1 rpg)
Penn State Harrisburg returns the majority of production from a team that rolled through United East play last season, only dropping three conference contests. After an 11-8 start, the Lions ripped off wins in six of their last seven, but fell at Morrisville State in their conference tournament title game. PSU Harrisburg’s losses include CoBL All-Area honorable mention Kendis Butler, but a balanced group that brings back six of its top nine full-season scorers has plenty of reason for optimism in 2023-24, including the return of leading scorer and 51.9 percent shooter Ciani Redd-Howard, a senior guard.
First Five: at Stockton (Nov. 8), vs. Neumann (Nov. 11), at Franklin and Marshall (Nov. 12), vs. Case Western Reserve (Nov. 17), vs. TBD (Nov. 18)
9. Haverford Fords
Head Coach: Grace Elliott, 2nd season
Last Year: 16-10 (12-6 Centennial)
Key Departures: Kayla Robinson (13.0 ppg, 14.3 rpg), Cortlyn Morris (7.2 ppg, 7.0 rpg)
Key Returners: Ally Landau (17.1 ppg, 5.5 rpg), Gia Flamini (8.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg), Erin Albright (3.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg), Abby Ryan (3.4 ppg, 2.2 rpg)
There’s good news and bad news for this year’s Haverford team. The good? Well over half of the Fords’ scoring returns, including 2022-23 CoBL first-teamer Ally Landau, a senior guard who has earned back-to-back first team All-Centennial Conference nods. The bad? Haverford, a top-heavy team from a year ago in terms of production, had just four players average more than five points, and two of them are gone, including Kayla Robinson, who averaged well over a double-double. Much of the onus for this year’s squad will fall on Landau and senior guard Gia Flamini, as well as a slew of underclassmen to step up into new roles.
First Five: at Rosemont (Nov. 8), vs. Immaculata (Nov. 14), vs. Bryn Mawr (Nov. 21), at Ursinus (Nov. 28), vs. McDaniel (Nov. 30)
10. Arcadia Knights
Head Coach: Jackie Hartzell, 2nd season
Last Year: 15-12 (7-9 MAC Freedom)
Key Departures: Dayna Balasa (6.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg)
Key Returners: Hanna Rhoades (11.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg), Scarlett Glasser-Nehls (9.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg), Delaney Bell (8.1 ppg, 8.8 rpg), Mara Weaver (7.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg), Abby Beam (6.0 ppg, 2.4 rpg)
Arcadia struggled down the stretch last season, losing five of its last seven including a MAC Freedom tournament loss to DeSales, but still experienced a turnaround season in Jackie Hartzell’s first year, winning 15 games after a 7-17 campaign the year prior. The Knights ran a relatively shallow rotation, with just five players appearing in all 27 games and just eight averaging double-digit minutes, but seven of those eight are back for 2023-24, including Arcadia’s top four scorers. Delaney Bell, a member of CoBL’s All-Rookie team last season, averaged a near double-double as a freshman, and is one of many key returning underclassmen.
First Five: at Rutgers-Camden (Nov. 11), vs. Gwynedd Mercy (Nov. 15), vs. Juniata (Nov. 21), vs. John Jay (Nov. 26), at Immaculata (Nov. 29)