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2023-24 CoBL Big 5 Awards (WBB)

04/10/2024, 9:15am EDT
By CoBL Staff

CoBL Staff (@hooplove215)

The third season of CoBL’s women’s basketball coverage was an exciting one in the Big 5: Drexel won a league championship and Villanova made it to the title game of a national postseason tournament, while Saint Joseph’s and Temple enjoyed strong years of their own. 

Individually, the city’s six teams boasted one of the country’s best scorers and plenty of talent around her, with some excellent junior forwards, impressive freshman guards, and more. And the Coach of the Year race was as tight as could be, with no fewer than four of the city’s six coaches worthy of the honor.

So without further ado, our 2023-24 Big 5 Women’s Basketball Awards:


Villanova junior Lucy Olsen is the CoBL Player of the Year. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Player of the Year: Lucy Olsen (Jr. | Villanova)

Maddie who?

With program great Maddie Siegrist gone, made the No. 3 pick in the WNBA draft, Olsen slid right into the primary offensive role for the Wildcats in her third year out of Spring-Ford. She nearly doubled her scoring output from 12.4 ppg to 23.3 ppg, and did so while increasing her overall shooting from 41.1% to 43.8% from the floor, along with 4.8 rpg, 3.8 apg and 1.9 spg. 

For her season, Olsen was made a First Team All-Big East Selection, leading the Wildcats to the inaugural Women’s Basketball Invitation Tournament (WBIT) championship game. She scored in double figures in all but two games, topping out with a 40-point outing against Temple, one of 10 times she hit or surpassed the 30-point barrier. 

Unfortunately for Villanova, Olsen will be finishing her college career elsewhere, as the city’s brightest star hit the transfer portal on Tuesday with one year of eligibility remaining. She finished with 1,504 points in a Wildcats uniform, good for ninth in program history. 


CoBL All-Big 5 First Team

Stina Almqvist (Jr. | Penn)
After averaging between 3-4 ppg her first two years at Penn, Almqvist made it clear her junior year would be quite different when she scored 24 points in the season opener. She hit or surpassed the 20-point mark seven more times during the year, averaging 15.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg and 2.1 apg, the 6-1 wing excellent around the bucket and in the mid-range as she led the Quakers in scoring on the season. Improving on her 3-point shooting (24.4%) would truly make her an all-around threat.

St. Joe's junior forward Talya Brugler was an All-A-10 selection again. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)

Talya Brugler (Jr. | Saint Joseph’s)
Year-by-year, Brugler is putting together one of the best careers in Saint Joseph’s history. The 6-1 forward from Nazareth (Pa.), a post bucket specialist, is already ninth in Hawks’ history on the scoring charts after putting together yet another strong year top-to-bottom: 15.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg and 2.5 apg, doing so on her most efficient shooting (54.1%) of her career, though she’s made more than half her shots each season of college. An All-Atlantic 10 selection for the second straight year, Brugler’s missing one thing from her resume: an A-10 championship.

Aleah Nelson (Gr. | Temple)
A much more balanced offensive attack meant that Nelson didn’t need to put up the same numbers she did a year ago (15.4 ppg), but the 5-6 fifth-year guard from Baltimore was the no-doubt leader for an Owls squad that finished tied for first place in the AAC regular-season standings. She averaged 11.8 ppg, second on Temple, leading the Owls with 4.2 apg,and her overall efficiency numbers were better both offensively and defensively than the year before.

Jordan Obi (Sr. | Penn)
A 6-1 forward from California, Obi put up her best numbers of her career as a senior, averaging 14.8 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 2.3 apg and 1.4 bpg, all the best of her career, as were her 3-point shooting (38.6%) and foul-shooting (82.7%) numbers. The 1,000-point scorer also set her career high this year with a 30-point game against Merrimack. She’ll have to play her final season of college hoops elsewhere, as the Ivy League does not allow graduate students to play on its athletics teams.

Laura Ziegler (Soph. | Saint Joseph’s)
A 6-2 forward from Denmark, Ziegler has paired with Brugler the last two seasons to form a nightmare for opponents up front. She upped all of her numbers this year: scoring (14.3 ppg), rebounding (9.4 rpg), assists (2.7 apg) and shooting percentages (43.1% overall and 34.0% from deep), with improved analytics numbers across the board. The first team All-Atlantic 10 selection set a new career high with 27 points in a win at Duquesne (plus 12 rebounds), one of 12 double-doubles she had on the season.

Second Team

Junior guard Amaris Baker had a strong debut campaign at Drexel. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Amaris Baker (Jr. | Drexel)
The 5-7 guard from Cardinal O’Hara took a little bit of time getting re-acclimated to the Division I level after playing at Kennesaw State two years ago. But she turned it on down the stretch, putting up First Team-worthy numbers: 16.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg and 2.0 apg while hitting 43.8% of her triples over the final 12 games of the season, a major reason the Dragons won the CAA championship for the second time in four years. For the season, she averaged 11.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg and 1.4 apg.

Christina Dalce (Jr. | Villanova)
One of the best defensive presences in Villanova’s history, Dalce is already second all-time in a Wildcats uniform in blocks (164), averaging 2.3/game each of the last two years, on pace to slip past Lisa Ortlilp (222 blocks) for the program record if she can manage that for another year; she was also 19th in the country in blocks per game. If she matches her numbers from this season (8.4 ppg, 9.7 rpg), she’ll finish in the top five in program history in rebounding, too. 

Tiarra East (Jr. | Temple)
East has had two strong seasons in a row, averaging 13.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.6 apg and 1.7 spg this year to lead Temple in scoring as the Owls finished tied atop the AAC. The 5-10 guard from Louisville scored 20-or-more six times, including a monster 28-point, 13-rebound double-double in a March win over East Carolina, both of which set new career marks; she’s also one of the best on-ball defenders in the city.

Mataya Gayle (Fr. | Penn)
The Ivy League Rookie of the Year was Penn’s 5-7 point guard out of River Ridge High School (Ga.), and she sure earned it. The Quakers’ starter at point for all 28 games, Gayle finished just behind Almqvist and Obi by averaging 14.3 ppg, adding 3.1 apg, 3.1 rpg and 1.5 spg on .399/.300/.800 splits. Her season high was a 28-point outing against Maine, one of five outings with 20-or-more. She has a chance to have a special career in University City.

Mackenzie Smith (Jr. | Saint Joseph’s)
It was a bounce back year for Smith, the 5-10 wing guard from Canada knocking down 41.7% of her 3-pointers after making just 31.6% a year ago. With a deeper Hawks’ offensive attack, her scoring average actually dropped slightly from sophomore (13.6 ppg) to junior (12.8 ppg) year, largely because she went to the line a lot less, but her defensive analytics numbers were the best of her career. Already a 1,000-point scorer, she’ll finish way up there in the SJU scoring list.

Chloe Welch (Gr. | Saint Joseph’s)
Welch was a one-year member of the Hawks rotation, having spent five years at Davidson, but she fit right in and was a major part of St. Joe’s record-setting season (program-best 28 wins). She averaged 10.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg and 2.0 apg and was the Hawks’ best perimeter defender, and she did it while shooting 33.9% from deep, solidly above her career average of 30.4%.

Honorable Mention
Molly Masciantonio (Gr. | La Salle); Nicole Melious (Fr. | La Salle); Makayla Miller (Gr. | La Salle); Brooke Mullin (Gr. | Drexel); Rayne Tucker (Sr. | Temple)


Penn's Stina Almqvist had a breakout junior campaign. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Most Improved: Stina Almqvist (Jr. | Penn)

Almqvist’s massive jump in production from her sophomore year (3.4 ppg, 2.0 rpg) to junior year (15.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg) wasn’t just because she tripled her minutes. Her numbers per 40 minutes went from 12.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.1 assists as a junior to 19.0 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists as a junior, showing that she was being even more productive with the minutes she was getting. According to Sports-Reference, her individual offensive rating went from 82.3 to 103.3, a massive jump in efficiency.

Honorable Mention
Chloe Hodges (Jr. | Drexel); Brooke Mullin (Gr. | Drexel), Bella Runyan (Sr. | Villanova)


Rookie of the Year: Mataya Gayle (Penn)

This year saw a strong crop of freshmen begin their college careers in the Big 5; every single one of the area’s programs had at least one freshman playing significant minutes, all providing good reason for optimism moving forward. Gayle is our pick for Big 5 Rookie of the Year in part due to her numbers and in part due to her maturity and on-court IQ, able to step in and help get the Quakers to the Ivy League tournament through an up-and-down season. 

Honorable Mention
Nicole Melious (Fr. | La Salle); Ese Ogbevire (Fr. | Penn); Tristen Taylor (Fr. | Temple); Maddie Webber (Fr. | Villanova)


Coach of the Year: Cindy Griffin (Saint Joseph’s)

This was a tough call to make: Diane Richardson guided Temple to 20 wins, nine more than the year before; Amy Mallon won a CAA championship at Drexel; Denise Dillon won 22 games and finished one shy of the WBIT title with ‘Nova. But Griffin, who led St. Joe’s to a program-record 28-win season and WBIT quarterfinal appearance, is our pick. The longtime Hawks’ head coach has a terrific junior core to rely on, but integrated Davidson transfer Chloe Welch seamlessly while getting good minutes out of freshmen Aleah Snead and Gabby Casey, as well as senior forward Paula Maurina at times. Nobody from the Hawks is in the transfer portal, and while they’ll suffer some losses to graduation, it looks like the St. Joe’s women will be primed for at least one more big season next year.

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