After the departure of six seniors last season, four of which were starters, the leadership of the women’s basketball team has fallen into the hands of the three-year guards Kaitlin Clifford and Caitlin Irwin.
Clifford, who sports the number 11, has stepped into the role of starting point guard, replacing SUNY New Paltz’s all-time leader in assists, Nicole Sarcone. While she is replacing one of the school’s best players, Clifford, 20, said, “I’m not looking to fill anyone’s shoes. I will build my own shoes and do what’s best for the team.”
Clifford uses last season’s loss in the SUNYAC championship game as fuel to push her team to reach their potential.
Clifford says her experience with the team will enable her to be a role model for the younger players on and off the court. Clifford is the team’s vocal leader, encouraging communication and offering advice to freshmen. She says younger players often ask how they can enhance their practice routine, deal with the juggle of school and basketball and making their class schedule.
“Since we lost so many players everyone is looking past us. We have the talent to be great, the toughest part will be putting together the pieces. We are essentially a new team but if we can make the chemistry work, I believe you will see something special,” Clifford said.
The Staten Island native is majoring in elementary education with a concentration in English.
“I expect nothing less than winning the SUNYAC championship. We have all the pieces to do so,” Clifford asserted.
Irwin shares Clifford’s drive to be the best, saying the “bitterness” from last year’s defeat still haunts her. Irwin, 20, who isn’t the most outspoken player, says she will lead by example.
“Your attitude reflects everyone else’s. I need to remain positive and energetic all the time. Even when I’m having a bad day, I can’t let it show. That is the biggest adjustment for me this year. When you’re young you can do your own thing, but now I am responsible for everyone on this team,” Irwin said.
Irwin, a Brooklyn native, is continuously helping younger players adapt to the adjustment between high school and college.
“Everything is new to them, this is such a huge transition. I try to convince them that everything will work out and instill the confidence needed to succeed,” Irwin said.
Irwin is working on being patient, understanding and realizing that she needs to communicate with different people in different ways. Her experience being a leader will help Irwin in her life after ball. She hopes to pursue a career in speech pathology, a career where patience and understanding is essential.
Sporting the number 15, Irwin is a defensive specialist. She hopes to improve her all-around game and help fill the offense void of losing the team’s top two scores of last season.