by Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — If you talked to Gwynedd Mercy University head coach Keith Mondillo on January 29th, it is probably safe to say that making the NCAA Tournament was the last thing on his mind.
The night before, his team lost on the road in Colonial States Athletic Conference action to Neumann by 19 points. That defeat dropped his squad to 9-10 on the season.
“We really had to change some things up,” Mondillo tells KYW Newsradio. “That really started with me and our staff and how we prepared our team. It just wasn’t working the way it was going.”
Listen to the entire interview with Gwynedd Mercy head coach Keith Mondillo:
Changes were made, the players responded, and the Griffins haven’t lost since.
After winning the CSAC Tournament, Gwynedd Mercy (18-10) will indeed be taking part in this year’s NCAA Tournament, visiting FDU-Florham in the first round on Friday night.
While the Griffins are now riding a nine-game winning streak, Mondillo says his team didn’t really hit full stride until very recently.
“I think when we played our last regular season game against Cabrini at Cabrini and we won, I realized that everything was clicking then,” he says. “Then we went into the playoffs and did the same thing every round since then.”
This will be Gwynedd Mercy’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2012 and Mondillo says their defense has been a big key to success.
“I think we’ve committed ourselves to playing defense,” he says. “We’ve done a good job in practice, prepping for games. At this time of the year, we try and do something that’s a little bit out of the norm. Instead of just straight zone or straight man, we do things to take away some of the teams that we’re playing’s better players. We figure, we can’t stop all of them, but we’ll stop one of them.”
Gwynedd Mercy is holding teams to 33% shooting from the field and just 53.9 points per game. The Griffins are being led by senior forward Charlotte Kucowski, who averages 16 points and 9.2 rebounds a game. Another senior forward Nicole Dombrowski chips in 10.1 points and 7.2 rebounds a contest.
The FDU-Florham team the Griffins will play in the first round is very good and used to winning in March.
In fact, the Devils won the national championship in 2014. This season, FDU-Florham won the MAC Freedom Conference for a fifth straight season and sit at 24-3.
“They’re super athletic,” Mondillo says. “They are not very tall but you can’t even describe how athletic they are. They won the national championship three years ago and there’s two kids still (on the roster from) that team, so they have that experience and that leadership. We’ve just got to make sure we take care of the ball and not turn it over in the back court and make FDU play us for a full shot clock, possession after possession. Not that we want to hold the ball, but we don’t want to shoot quickly.”
Friday’s game will start at 7:00pm with the winner getting the winner of Messiah and Babson in the second round on Saturday.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @Mattleonkyw.