This year, VU Hoops will be expanding its coverage into women’s basketball. Coming off of a deep WNIT run and returning virtually every key player, the Wildcats are primed to build off of last season. We start off our class-by-class preview series by looking at the freshmen.
#0 Cameron Onken (RS Fr.) 5-10, G — Lafayette, Ind./Lafayette Central Catholic
#3 Grace Lange, 5-11, F — Newark, Del./Caravel Academy
#10 Raven James (RS Fr.) 5-6, G — Upper Marlboro, Md./Paul VI Catholic
#13 Sam Carangi, 5-9, G — Lansdale, Pa./North Penn
#14 Brianna Herlihy (RS Fr.) 6-0, F — Braintree, Mass./Braintree
#23 Emily Esposito, 5-9, G — Gorham, Maine/Gorham
With almost everyone from last year’s deep run to the WNIT semifinals back in action, the writing was on the wall for the incoming freshmen that their playing time would be limited in such a crowded roster. Head coach Harry Perretta has said that his two scholarship freshmen—Emily Esposito and Sam Carangi—will be redshirting this season.
Both Esposito and Carangi enjoyed excellent careers at their respective high schools. Esposito was named First Team All-State in each of her four years at Gorham (Maine), and earned numerous Player of the Year honors her senior year including Miss Basketball for Maine and Gatorade Player of the Year. A two-time state champion, she is also the program’s all-time leading scorer with 1,446 career points.
As for Carangi, she comes from a family that bleeds blue and white. A native of nearby Lansdale, Pa., her parents both attended Villanova. Her mother played basketball for Perretta, while her father was on the football team. Her aunt also played basketball under Perretta, but did so in the late 1990s.
The third freshman, Grace Lange, achieved success on and off the court in high school. She was named Miss Teen Delaware for 2017 and on the court, aided Caravel Academy to the state finals. She was named an All-State Honorable Mention and despite coming from Delaware, her allegiances are mainly Philadelphia-based. She is a fan of the major Philly sports teams, her mother was a standout basketball player at Temple and her father has some 76ers connections on his side of the family.
Meanwhile, the redshirt freshmen have some great expectations going into this season. Cameron Onken, Raven James, and Brianna Herlihy were all part of a loaded recruiting class for 2016. The Wildcats brought in five players all part of a bunch that have the potential to be one of the top incoming classes in recent history, let alone all time. It was one of the highest-ranking classes coming in.
With that said, these three were stashed with a redshirt season. Now, they will get the opportunity to show what they can do, as they finally get some in-game action.
James is one of the players that has impressed Perretta this off-season. She is slated to backup preseason All-Big East Team unanimous selection Adrianna Hahn. James is a solid two-way guard, that excels especially on defense. She is a quick and that speed also serves her well on the offensive end. As a point guard, she sees the floor well and possesses excellent handles, her scoring is starting to come together as well.
She hails from Upper Marlboro, Md., where former Villanova Wildcat Kris Jenkins is also from. However, they went to different high schools. James was a standout at Paul VI Catholic in Virginia, where she helped the Panthers to back-to-back state titles.
As for Onken, she adds an element of size at the guard position, in addition to her three-point shooting abilities. A skilled shooter, she was a three-time All-State First Team selection at Lafayette Central Catholic (Ind.) and led the team to back-to-back state championships in her last two years there.
Last but not least is Brianna Herlihy, who is the younger sister of redshirt sophomore Bridget. Brianna adds an element of size in the frontcourt, coming in a 6-feet tall. She is a rebounding specialist that can also score the ball. She will be called upon to help Villanova improve as a rebounding team. Last season, the Wildcats were second-to-last in the Big East when it came to the boards and on average, were outrebounded by 5.4 rebounds per game.
For these redshirt freshmen, this season will finally be their chance to get in on the action and become contributors.