On Nov. 11 the Saint Leo Women’s Basketball team plays its first game of the season. In the schedule announced during the second week of October, coaches included 26 games of the regular season. For the team, it will also be the first academic year under the supervision of an entirely new coaching staff.
The Lions will begin their campaign on Friday, Nov. 11 in Lakeland by playing against Lee University during the Sunshine State/Gulf Coast Conference Challenge. Nonetheless, the women will continue on Nov. 12 to complete their second game of the challenge that will be held at Saint Leo University. The Lions will play against Shorter University.
The first game against a Sunshine State Conference member will take place in Lakeland on Nov. 16. The women open their SSC season by playing with Florida Southern College in their facility.
For the Lions’ fans, the upcoming games might be exciting as the women have prepared for the 2016-2017 campaign being led by an entirely new coaching staff. On May 4, Anthony Crocitto was named the new Saint Leo Basketball Head Coach. Crocitto, who came to Saint Leo from the New York Institute of Technology, and who has nearly 20 years of coaching experience in all three divisions of NCAA, has completed the rest of the staff since then.
“We have a great group of women here at Saint Leo. We have good people, and committed hard workers. I’m impressed with their focus to get better daily,” said Crocitto.
“Changing jobs is always an issue in life for everyone. I have dealt with many challenges and learning curves, but we have some great people working here in many departments. This, in itself, makes it tough to fail,” added the Head Coach when asked about his transition from NYIT to Saint Leo.
Crocitto indicates that both the women at NYIT and Saint Leo have many features in common. Such facts might be potentially helpful while coaching the Lions. “I appreciate both groups of ladies all the same. They both want to play fast, exciting and fun. They both have high morals and character and appreciate being a part of the program. I’m truly blessed to have coached at NYIT and overjoyed to be here at Saint Leo,” said Crocitto.
Even though the Lions’ fans might get the most excited about the championship part of the season, in fact, all of the games matter. “They are all important as the next. It is a long season, very long and we will strive to peak at the right time,” said Crocitto about the importance of the games during the season. “We open up with three very tough regional games and we will see where we are at right away. We are working hard and must learn to deal with adversity in a positive manor. We can never be too high or too low,” added the Coach.
One of the concerns that the fans might have is how the team will respond to all the changes that it has experienced in regards to the coaching staff. Even though a new coach might very often be a good change, some players do not always adapt so well to new coaching techniques. Nevertheless, the Lions’ head coach indicates that such change is not going to be a problem with this team. “I firmly believe that I have the greatest assistants in the game. They understand and work hard each day. We don’t take days off. We just want to be better,” said Crocitto.
The team has also two new assistant coaches. One of them is Megan Dzikas, who has been added to the staff in July. Dzikas is a 2012 graduate of Florida Southern College, and she came to Saint Leo after being a head coach at St. Catherine College in Springfield, Ky for two seasons.
“My impressions of our team after the first few month was with their work ethics and commitment to get better. We were extremely focused in the preseason with conditioning and weights. Also, the way we are coming together as a family and creating that winning culture is really showing through,” said Dzikas about the team.
Another assistant coach is Dominic DiRaimo, who joined the staff in August. DiRaimo graduated from South Florida in May 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts in criminology. However, he has also served as an assistant coach to Dzikas at St. Catherine College.
“They are a very hard working group of individuals, both on the court and in the classroom. I have been able to get to know the athletes very well in my first few months at Saint Leo. Despite our entirely new staff, it is clear to see that the Lions are acclimating well to the new coaching styles,” said DiRaimo.
It is important for the team to have the players goals aligned with the coaches’ expectations. If the communication between the coaching staff and the players is good, the practice, as well as the tournaments, might be easier for both sides. Apparently, since most of the athletes practice because they want to get better, it seems as if the coaches at Saint Leo understand their players’ needs very well.
“We want to improve each and every day we take the court. We want to get better daily. We also have academic team goals for the year which we will work hard to meet,” said Crocitto.
“We have a couple of goals this season, one being improving our overall record from last year. But our main focus right now is to get better each day. If we continue to work hard, focus, and stay disciplined every day in practice then our goals will take care of themselves,” added Dzikas whose words complement the head coach’s statement.
With 14 players in the team, of which 5 are freshmen, the team might have a chance to have a successful season. The coaches, as well as the players, have some goals to accomplish and their journey to achieve them starts with their first game. Even though the SSC tournament starts in March, every game of the season counts towards the final result. Therefore, it is important for the team to be focused on winning the games from the very beginning of their season.
“Our Head Coach, Anthony Crocitto has set some lofty goals for the program; however, we strongly believe we can accomplish each and every one of them with the group that we have currently,” said DiRaimo.