Expectations stay high for St. Joe's women

Dynamic duo: St. Joseph's guards Natasha Cloud (left) and Erin Shields are two reasons the Hawks are expected to do well in the Atlantic Ten. CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
Dynamic duo: St. Joseph's guards Natasha Cloud (left) and Erin Shields are two reasons the Hawks are expected to do well in the Atlantic Ten. CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
Posted: November 06, 2013

The success of last season was a long time coming for the St. Joseph's women's basketball team, which broke a 12-year drought by getting to the NCAA tournament and winning the Atlantic Ten tournament by upsetting nationally ranked Dayton in the semifinals.

Good omens loomed early with the upset on Hawk Hill of then fifth-ranked Maryland and a last-second win at Drexel.

Many of the achievements for veteran coach Cindy Griffin at her alma mater were built on the play of senior center Chatilla Van Grinsven, who averaged 14.9 points per game and 10.5 rebounds while blocking 47 shots. Van Grinsven went on to last until the final cuts as a free-agent signee with the WNBA Connecticut Sun.

While Van Grinsven's exit will be felt, the Hawks have enough talent to have merited a pick of second from the Atlantic Ten coaches behind Dayton, which is ranked 14th in the Associated Press preseason women's media poll.

A big reason is the backcourt with senior sharpshooter Erin Shields, whose three-point prowess lit up the local NCAA summer league in the offseason, and Natasha Cloud, who was a top defender after the Cardinal O'Hara graduate became eligible last season following her transfer from Maryland.

"With those two - Shields and Cloud - you know what you are going to get every day and as for our returning post players, they did see a lot of playing time behind Chatilla," Griffin said.

That group includes Ashley Robinson, a 6-foot-2 redshirt junior from Archbishop Wood who missed her first two seasons with recurring knee injuries, and senior forward Ilze Gotfrida from Latvia. Geena Gomez, a 5-8 freshman guard from Huntington Beach, Calif., highlights the newcomers.

Two significant changes in the Atlantic Ten have occurred - one involving departures with one-year member Butler heading to the new Big East, perennial challenger Charlotte off to Conference USA, and closer to home, Big Five rival Temple leaving for what became the American Athletic Association out of the football portion of the old Big East.

As a result, the Hawks won't see much of the Owls, twice a season minimally, and they will see Temple much earlier on the schedule.

Meanwhile St. Joseph's, which hosted all of the A-10 tourney two years ago and most of it last season, will now have to play for the title the next three years in Richmond, Va., which is said to have tossed $10,000 to the league for the women as a reaction to losing the Colonial Athletic Association men's tourney to Baltimore.

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