The interim tag has been removed and now Slippery Rock women’s basketball coach Bobby McGraw has settled into his office. McGraw has a tall challenge ahead of him as SRU’s women’s basketball team tries to shake the reputation of being in the proverbial “lower class” of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC).
“We have to change the culture right now,” McGraw said. “No one wants to play for a losing team. We have to win now.”
McGraw inherited a women’s program that had struggled considerably before taking over. With only 15 wins scattered over the previous four seasons, Slippery Rock needed a change. Last year, McGraw was named the interim coach and the tide began to turn. He led The Rock to an 11 win season and a trip to the PSAC Tournament, its first post-season appearance in nearly a decade.
“That celebration is long gone,” McGraw said. “The goal is to build a program with athletes who have character and are tough.”
McGraw is planning to jump-start the culture change with some transfer additions he made this offseason. Lexi Carpenter, a junior point guard from Woodbridge, Va. and transfer from IUP and Dayton, is McGraw’s new point guard. He said Carpenter has the ability to see the floor and distribute passes like he’s never seen before.
Along with Carpenter, The Rock welcomes sophomore Ciara Patterson who transferred from Wright State, and sophomore Krista Pietropola out of Youngstown State. McGraw said his idea of getting transfers is to eliminate any negativity that surrounded the program in prior years.
“Great teams walk out of the locker room believing and knowing that you’re going to win,” McGraw said. “We need that mindset and we need it now.”
Joining the three transfers is a Slippery Rock team that McGraw said is 10 players deep, including some key returners.
Senior point guard Erica Aiello started in 26 games last year for The Rock and has been a presence on the floor since her freshman year. Aiello is 11th all-time in school history in assists and minutes played. She’s also 12th all-time with made three pointers. McGraw said his favorite attribute Aiello has is her defense.
“Erica’s going to be a nightmare for opposing point guards,” McGraw said. “She plays 94 feet up and down for 40 minutes a night.”
One of McGraw’s key ingredients to success is rebounding. He said The Rock has one of the best in returning senior Megan Hardiman, who had 131 rebounds last year.
“If I told Megan we could beat IUP if you rolled down a flight of stairs she would do it,” McGraw said. “She’s a gamer. The Pistons and the Bulls had Rodman, we have Megan.”
Rounding out the deep Rock squad this year is Sorriyah Ranger, who is the projected starting center for The Rock. McGraw will have plenty of options coming off the bench too, including sophomore Mallory Heinle, freshman Morgan Henderson, sophomore Shannon Jack
and junior Audrey Stapleton, who was number one combined field goal and free throw percentage in the Atlantic Region last year.
With all of the returning talent, The Rock suffers a blow with the loss of senior Taylor Siggers for the season due to injury. Siggers started 26 games last season, averaging 11.8 points per game. Despite being out, Siggers is still an active team leader on the bench and makes her presence known.
With McGraw breathing new life into The Rock program, they look for a PSAC title this year. McGraw said he sees his team really coming together.
“They really like each other and we really like them,” McGraw said. “If they stay together and play selfless—we have a chance to win the league this year.”