West Windsor, N.J. - The Mercer County Community College (MCCC) women’s basketball team was dealt a bad hand to start the 2018-19 season.
For starters, Haylee Kieffer, who led the Lady Vikings in scoring with 17.6 points per game in 2017-18, was ruled out for the season after tearing her ACL. Then, six games into the season, freshman forward Morgan Papp tore the meniscus in her left knee, an injury which prematurely ended her season as well.
“It’s tough to deal with injuries so early into the season,” said Head Coach Mike Tenaglia. “But we have to persevere. That’s all we can do.”
Not all hope was lost. The Lady Vikings stayed competitive behind efforts from sophomore forward Tylisha Livingston. Livingston posted 21 points per game, a mark she reached thanks to her ability to get to the free-throw line. Her 174 makes from the charity stripe were the fifth most in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) last season. Freshmen guards Madison Diaz and Darnella McMillan were also productive on offense – both averaged just over 10 points per game through the Lady Vikings’ 25-game season.
Defensively, Mercer got contributions up and down the roster. Five players – Nadine Elamary, Diaz, Livingston, McMillan, and Tyasia Stephenson – averaged at least a steal per game. Livingston and McMillan also provided at least a block per contest.
“I was most proud of this team’s resiliency,” Tenaglia said. “Our ability to stay competitive each night, despite the hardships and disappointments we encountered, was one of our best qualities.”
Though the Lady Vikings fell short of a bid in the NJCAA Region 19 tournament, this season still had cause for celebration. Against Rowan College at Gloucester on Jan. 31, the evening of Mercer’s annual Think Pink Breast Cancer Awareness Night, Tenaglia earned his 400th career victory. That night, Livingston’s 29 points coalesced with 16-point outings by Diaz and Stephenson in the 76-67 victory.
“There are so many athletes, coaches and Mercer personnel who have contributed to this accomplishment,” Tenaglia said, noting the supportive nature of Mercer’s Athletics department. “A head coach is only as good as those who surround him. I have been fortunate to have worked with people who were willing to give their time and energy to help me be successful.”
He continued, “I have truly enjoyed my time at Mercer and look forward to more wins and more special student athletes helping us to attain these levels of accomplishment.”
Since the season ended in February, the Lady Vikings have made strides to fill out their roster. Two All-Colonial Valley Conference honorable mentions, Nydia Liles (Nottingham High School) and Shaneka Poole (Trenton High School) are committed to join the program for the winter 2019-20 season.
Tenaglia was assisted by Jane Berlinger and Charlie Brown.