Women’s basketball heats up with playoffs around corner


Sydney Emerson

Sarah Santicola, ’26, faces Bethany College’s Sophie Morey in the opening tip-off of Wednesday night hoops.

Allegheny’s women’s basketball team has rattled off three straight wins to move their record to 8-8 for the season. It is the first time this year the team has been at the .500 mark. After dropping their first four games, the squad rallied together, and has since gone 8-4.

“We know it’s about the win,” Sarah Santicola, ’26, said. “We’re all committed to the win.”

It is without question the team could not have saved the sinking ship without the exemplary play of Emily Lauer, ’25. In the past five games, Lauer has averaged 21.2 points, in addition to 6.4 rebounds per night. In her previous outing at Waynesburg, she netted 30 points and accounted for 60% of the team’s total.
Still, that was not her top performance of the season; she dropped 32 points in a career-high game, while also snagging nine boards en route to a dominating 73-54 victory over Thiel on Dec. 3, 2022. Her offensive prowess cannot be overstated, as she ranks second in the conference in points per game and first in points scored.

“It’s important to be able to keep that rhythm,” Lauer said. “A lot of times I just go in and shoot on the gun (a machine that passes the ball back out after a make) or do workouts with Coach Jess (Vormelker).”

Despite Lauer’s abilities on the court, she has had some needed assistance from her teammates. Santicola earned the PAC Rookie of the Week award for the second week in a row on Monday, Jan. 16, for her performances against Waynesburg and Westminster.

With both games being played on the road, Santicola did not let the hostile environment get to her. She averaged a double-double in the pair of Gator victories, totaling 11 points per game and 10.5 rebounds per game. She also accumulated seven total blocked shots, including a career-high five against the Yellow Jackets. She ranks first in the conference in the blocked shots category.

“My number one thing has always been, ‘Oh well, if all else fails at least I’ll get a block or two this game,’” Santicola said. “I have really long arms so I just jump in the way. It’s my main thing. I like blocking shots.”

Adding to the duo of Lauer and Santicola is Jess Bickart, ’26, who has also made her impact known on the court this year. She has almost double the assists of anyone on the roster, and is second in the conference for total dimes. She provides great court awareness, and always seems to find her teamates for the open look.

“It’s really easy with Emily getting to the basket all the time, and Sarah posting up all the time,” Bickart said. “They make it easy for me.”

Along with Bickart’s performance on the court, she is also a leader in the classroom. Bickart puts the student first in “student-athlete,” and came to Allegheny after earning a 5.0 GPA at Seneca Valley High School.

“A lot of it is time management,” Bickart said. “I try to put in time for both, and just pay attention in class.”

It is not always easy throwing the young guns out on the floor, expecting them to perform at a high level game in and game out. All three girls are the team’s leading scorers, and are all underclassmen. They have handled adversity well, and have stuck together like glue to build chemistry and continue growing.

“It’s really exciting that we’re all really young,” Bickart said. “There’s a lot of potential.”

Though these three young women have hauled the load of production throughout most of the season, the leadership they have gotten from the veterans has allowed them to perform at the level they do. The team will regularly hang out together off the court, which includes spending time at the upperclassmen apartments. They have learned some of their most valuable traits from the ones who have been in their shoes.

The team’s confidence is at an all time high. They were counted out by many after falling to tough teams including Carnegie Mellon University, No. 22 ranked John Carroll University, and No. 17 ranked St. John Fisher University early in the season. The team believes it geared them up for what was to come, and rather than getting down on themselves, it made them want to work that much harder.

“One of our big things right now is playing for each other,” Bickart said. “It’s about putting 110% effort in for us.”

With just nine games left to go until the PAC playoffs, the Gators will look to finish strong as it is their goal to bring home a conference title. They tip off at home against Franciscan University

Branygan Bianchin, ’24, dribbles across the timeline looking to set up a play for her teammates. (Sydney Emerson)

Saturday, Jan. 21, at 4 p.m., as they hope to keep the hot streak alive.