Eric Harrison was not quite sure what he had on his hands as far as his 2017-18 Lehman College women’s basketball team was concerned.
Gone was all-everything guard Amely Del Rosario, whose storied career with the Lightning ended with graduation last spring. And with more than a few new faces dotting the roster, Harrison was anxious to see what opening night brought in the Lightning’s maiden voyage against New Jersey City University.
Turns out the post-Del Rosario Era may go a lot smoother than expected as the Lightning rolled to an impressive 81-42 victory. Yet, Harrison was less than enthused.
“We didn’t even play our best game,” said Harrison, now in his 20th season at the helm with 290 wins and counting. “It’s more now about getting the pieces in place, getting them to learn about each other. But I’m just excited about getting them to develop every day.”
For the past four seasons, Del Rosario — who finished second in Lehman history with 1,980 points — helped lead the Lightning to the City University of New York Athletic Conference championship two seasons ago and the tournament semifinals last year. She had been the backbone of the Lehman program — its go-to player, its heart.
Now with Del Rosario gone, how will the Lightning look as they move forward?
“It will definitely be more of a team thing this year,” senior captain Lynda Fields said. “We have more players that can score this year. Last year, we were kind of dependent on me and Amely. But this year we have more pieces who can score, play defense and do everything. So it’s definitely going to be more of a team thing this time.”
You would expect Harrison, despite his winning pedigree, to at least be mildly concerned about the upcoming season without his safety net. But he doesn’t seem all that rankled by life without Del Rosario. In fact, he thinks he actually might be in a better position to reclaim the CUNYAC title this year over last season.
“You were comfortable with (Del Rosario) here for four years, and she did a tremendous job,” Harrison said. “She was one of the greatest players to ever play for Lehman, but we still got talent in here. I think we have a little bit more talent than we had last year, so it’s exciting to have these guys in the mix and seeing them play and starting to gel.
“As much as we miss Amely, we have more depth right now. The core is a little deeper, and we’re more well-rounded, so I really like that about this team. There’s more balance.”
It all starts, however, with Lynda Fields, an All-CUNYAC First Team selection after last season. Fields scored 18 points in the victory over New Jersey City, one of three Lightning players — along with Alliyah Dorsett and Ayanna Behagen with 19 points each — to finish the night in double-figure scoring.
“Last year when people came in here, they knew it was Amely’s team,” Harrison said. “This year, there are a lot more people who can step up, and they’re getting there.”
Along with Dorsett and Behagen, the Lightning will rely heavily on Selena Lopez as well as the other Fields sister, Lisa, a junior.
These are lots of offensive options that just need a little time to get used to playing together.
“We all get along on and off the court, but the chemistry is not there yet,” Lynda Fields said. “But we’re still building toward that. We’re just taking it day-by-day. But we’re playing together and we’re working hard.”
Lehman was picked second in the CUNYAC preseason poll with defending champion College of Staten Island taking the top spot. While Harrison puts little credence in such polls, Lynda Fields said she and the rest of the Lightning will use that perceived slight to rally around this season.
“I think we’re definitely using that as motivation,” Fields said. “Being number two is motivation to get to that number one spot. I think a lot of people are going to be surprised by us this year.”