South Orange, NJ - When the pairings were announced there was some reflection on the part of two particular coaches. When the business of breaking down film, game planning and practice preparation were in vogue, there was less thought. FDU was set to travel about 15 miles or so to visit Seton Hall in the first round of the WNIT. For FDU it was more than the school’s first invitation to the WNIT. It meant FDU coach Ang Szumilo it meant facing her college coach Tony Bozzella.
Szumilo was Bozzella’s point guard at LIU two decades ago. During her time at the Brooklyn school, LIU captured the 2001 Northeast Conference championship. The memories run deep but gave way to the immediate job at hand.
"When the announcement was made we were playing Seton Hall, I thought back to the days playing for Tony." Szumilo admitted following FDU’s 67-45 loss to Seton Hall last Thursday. "Once you start preparation you focus on other things. During the game you do not think about who is (coaching) on the opposite sideline. It’s all about adjustments and managing the game from a coaching standpoint. Besides," she added, " When I assisted Stephanie Gaitley at Fordham we played Seton Hall several times, so it’s not the first time Tony and I coached against each other."
Bozzella spoke post game about the pride of coaching against two former point guards. Beside Szumilo, there was FDU assistant Kaity Healy who played for Seton Hall from 2015 through 2019. In a game much closer than the score dictated, Bozzella noted how FDU reflected the tendencies of their mentor. "They (FDU) were great, tough and smart. They were very well prepared Ang has done a great job," Bozzella added. ‘That was the first time they were in postseason since 1993."
FDU finished the season with a 19-12 record. They won the Northeast Conference regular season championship. They recorded the most NEC wins (15) in program history. Szumilo was chosen NEC Coach of the Year, the third from FDU to be honored with that distinction. FDU was upset in the conference tournament semifinals by Bryant prior to their WNIT appearance.
"I am very proud of the team," Szumilo said taking some time to reflect more on the campaign just ended. "We had 11 underclassmen and took a big step in the right direction. We are very much motivated for next year." The Knights will lose three contributors off this roster, Rachael Niles, Madeline Selvagi and NEC Player of the Year Madison Stanley. "We lose some talented players," Szumilo admitted, "but these give others the opportunities to step up. I think we (coaches) and our kids do a great job in player development. Chloe (Wilson) was an example." Wilson, a sophomore forward and Third Team All-NEC, , was the Knights’ second leading scorer (12.1 ppg) just behind Stanley (12.4 ppg).
Szumilo took about a half hour, longer than normal post game, to address her team following the loss at Seton Hall. Certainly praising a season of work well done. Also, a reminder of work to be accomplished with an added reason for motivation.
"They will take the pain felt from losing to Bryant and tonight (Seton Hall) with them in off season," Szumilo said. "Those off season workouts through the Summer start soon and I know as individuals and as a team they will be motivated."
Szumilo, naturally, takes great pride in her team. Bozzella takes pride as well in recognizing the job his former pupil has done in her three years at FDU.