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Wagner's rebuilding process begins with recruiting for coach Lisa Cermignano

First year head coach Lisa Cermignano is in the throes of a rebuilding process at Wagner. Right now, hope lies with five recruits coming in next season.

Coach Lisa Cermignano is in the middle of a rebuilding process at Wagner.
Coach Lisa Cermignano is in the middle of a rebuilding process at Wagner.
Photo by Ray Floriani.

TEANECK, NJ - Lisa Cermignano looked at the stat sheet and paused.

Following her Wagner team's 59-54 loss at Farleigh Dickerson on Monday she was asked her first impression of the game.

"Bad officiating, bad officiating," she said.

Then a pause came before adding, "Yes it was bad officiating. And not just on our end. Neither team could get into a flow tonight."

The first year Wagner mentor, by her own admission, is not one to overly criticize officials. Nor was she blaming this, Wagner's 26th loss, on the crew. Rather she seemed a bit frustrated and upset for her team. A team that, despite the long year at the Northeast Conference school, has not let up. A week earlier, Wagner came from 16 points down to defeat St. Francis(NY).

"These kids really have worked and never packed it in all year long," the coach said.

The loss dropped Wagner's NEC record to 2-16 and they won three games total for the season. The FDU game, to be kind, was less than artistic. Wagner committed 23 turnovers, FDU 18. The shooting percentage was 53%. Combined. Wagner shot 31% , FDU 22%. The difference, beside turnovers, was FDU's ability to control the boards by a 55-44 margin.

"Our interior game has been decimated," Cermignano said.

She also pointed out the fact that injuries have played havoc.

"A lot of times," we were down to six healthy players," Cermignano said. "Plus we were asking them to learn a new system."

The changes in style of play were primarily on the defensive end. A lot of switching from man to zone but most important, applying pressure.

"I want to pressure the whole game," she said, "but really couldn't this year. With the injuries and lack of experience we lacked depth."

Cermignano has been a winner and associated with winning her entire basketball life. From playing days at Gloucester (NJ) Catholic and the AAU Philadelphia Liberty Belles. To some of Joe McKeown's excellent George Washington teams in the late Nineties.

Coaching had been no different with assistant stops at schools such as Illinois, Vanderbilt, George Washington, Monmouth and Maryland. This is her first head coaching assignment but she is well versed in what it takes to excel on the basketball court.

Systems and 'schemes' are fine. You need players however. Cermignano and her staff signed five excellent prospects for next season. In recruiting, a priority was getting a player from a long-time winning program.

"Talent is naturally important," she said. "But to get a situation turned around you have to bring in not just talented kids but those who have been a part of winning programs."

She did just that as among her five are two from New Jersey power St. John Vianney and one out of New York's highly regarded Murry Bergtrum High School.

The current Seahawk squad started three seniors. There is some young returning talent. One player of note is freshman guard Jordyn Peck. The team's leading scorer against FDU with 19 points, Peck ran the club a good part of the night while showing the ability to hit from the perimeter.

"Jordyn (Peck) is a good one on one player," Cermignano said. "She is still learning."

Ideally, a shift to the off guard spot would be beneficial down the road.

Wagner did not qualify for the NEC post season tournament. The top eight teams are in. Wagner with their two conference wins was at the bottom. Cermignano points out with Quinnipiac and Monmouth are headed to the MAAC next year the possibility of moving up is there.

"One or two kids can really help elevate you," she said.

The schedule is finished. In the world of building or maintaining a meaningful program there is no off season. The Wagner staff has their five for next season. Now they will focus on recruiting for the following year. In addition they will keep in touch with the players in the program in terms of off season development and improvement. The axiom holds true, next season's games are won in the Summer.

Three wins does not do justice to the improvements by Cermignano and her staff.

"In recent years kids were giving up during games in December," she said. "That did not happen this year. These kids didn't give up."

Progress. Not measured in the won-lost ledger but still present and significant just the same.