Next up in our women’s basketball preview series are the Wildcat sophomores. All four of them got to see playing time in a bulk of the games last season, and that experience is going to do well for them moving forward.
#1 Bridget Herlihy (RS So.) 6-2, F -- Braintree, Mass./Braintree
#25 Kelly Jekot, 6-0, G -- Enola, Pa./Cumberland Valley
#30 Mary Gedaka, 6-1, F -- Mullica Hill, N.J./Gloucester Catholic
#45 Grace Stant, 6-0, G -- Fair Haven, N.J./Rumson Fair Haven
This bunch includes the other half of a strong incoming recruiting class of 2016, as well as a redshirt sophomore in Bridget Herlihy, who is the older sister of redshirt freshman Brianna.
Kelly Jekot, Mary Gedaka, and Grace Stant all saw playing time last season as freshmen, playing roles within a deep 10-person rotation.
Jekot came in with the most buzz surrounding her. A two-time Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of Pennsylvania and a 2,000 point scorer coming out of Cumberland Valley (Pa.), she was tabbed a five-star prospect by ESPN and the No. 50-ranked recruit in the class of 2016. She was named the preseason Big East Freshman of the Year heading into last season, but she didn't seem to live up to the lofty expectations. However, she did manage to earn Big 5 Rookie of the Year honors.
She was one of two freshmen to play in all 35 games last year, and even made four starts, but she started off the year slowly and was a bit inconsistent at times. Her best showing came against Seton Hall on Jan. 13, when she finished with a season-high 17 points and six rebounds. She knocked down 4-of-9 three-point attempts in that game, as well.
Jekot went on to finish the year averaging 6.1 points and 3.5 boards. She shot just 33 percent on the floor overall and a subpar 29 percent from deep.
Now with last year's experiences under her belt and something to learn from, head coach Harry Perretta has been impressed with the way she has been playing this offseason.
"Kelly Jekot is playing really really well," he said. "Her freshman year--she struggled a little bit at times, but now you’re seeing how she’s grown up in her sophomore year, where she really understands what she’s doing. She’s playing extremely well right now."
Perretta is expecting her to flaunt her shooting talents that she had been known for coming into Villanova, as she is able to score from nearly anywhere on the floor and off the dribble too. At 6-feet tall, she also adds an element of size and the ability to play multiple positions. With the freshman year jitters out of the way, expect her as well as her classmates to experience anything but a sophomore year slump.
Gedaka, Stant, and Herlihy have all been impressing so far in preseason play.
Gedaka is primed to build off of a solid freshman season, where she proved to be a reliable contributor off the bench. Last season, the 6-1 forward demonstrated her ability to provide an interior scoring presence off the bench. She boasted a team-high 51.1 shooting percentage on the floor. As a "seventh or eighth player last year," she's due for an upgrade to "sixth player, first off the bench" according to Perretta.
As for Herlihy and Stant, they are two players that like Jekot, are on the path to a much-improved year. They were both at the ends of the rotation last year, although they also got a chance to log a couple of starts between the two of them. In the limited action they got to see on the floor, they shot under 25 percent.
So far, in preseason, they have been turning things around.
"Bridget Herlihy struggled last year, I think she has a lot of talent," Perretta said. "Grace Stant...also has played a lot better too. She’s another one that can come off the bench and make threes."
These four are due for an uptick in production and playing time and there shouldn’t be any fears of a sophomore slump.