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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

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St. Joe’s looks to Talya Brugler and Mackenzie Smith for leadership

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The Hawk News
Junior guard Mackenzie Smith talks with Head Coach Cindy Griffin during a timeout, March 3. PHOTO: MADELINE WILLIAMS ’26/THE HAWK

Forward Talya Brugler and guard Mackenzie Smith were the scoring leaders for St. Joe’s as sophomores last season. Head Coach Cindy Griffin is expecting more from them this time around.

Now they have to step up as “the pulse of the team” and learn how to be vocal leaders as well, Griffin said. “They’ve been leaders since they’ve been stepping on campus and they embrace that challenge,” said Griffin, now in her 23rd season as head basketball coach of the Hawks.

Brugler led the team in scoring last season at 16.7 points per game. Smith followed, averaging 13.6 points. Smith said she has already seen her junior classmates rise to the occasion since early in the preseason.

“From a leadership standpoint, I feel like our junior class is more comfortable,” she said.

“We came in [last season] during a time where we had great leaders,” Brugler added. “We learned a lot from them.”

Mary Sheehan, the Hawks’ new director of basketball operations, and recent graduate Katie Jekot were the two names that came to mind for Brugler when talking about the leaders she has learned from.

Smith credited the past leadership with impacting the type of teammate she hopes to be. “I’m trying to focus on being an everyday person,” she said.

That includes having an impact on the court but also being a role model for teammates.

“I like that I’m someone that people look up to,” Smith said. “I like to be the person that’s helpful. I love helping people. I love putting people in the best positions possible.”

But this role has not been without challenges, she said. “Sometimes people look at you for answers and you don’t always have them,” Smith said. “Or you try to give your best and you’re that forceful voice and sometimes it comes off the wrong way.”

Brugler also credited Sheehan and Jekot with instilling the idea that leaders should be “everyday players.” This involves “getting to know your teammates outside of basketball,” said Brugler, which then translates to knowing them better on the court.

The Hawks’ veterans are planning on “using our experience to our advantage,” Brugler said, to help newcomers acclimate.

“We have a lot of underclassmen coming in, a few freshmen, a few transfers, a lot of people who are new to the program,” she said.

As a returning team captain, Brugler has a knowledge of the program that is an asset.

“She knows exactly what we’re trying to do and the level of which we’re trying to do it,” Griffin said.

“She has really been a leader for us,” Griffin added. “She really has taken a lot of the responsibility this summer and into the fall.”

In addition, Smith said she continues to learn from the other strong leaders around her, including last season’s Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year, 6-foot-2 sophomore Laura Ziegler, who averaged 11.8 points in 2022-23.

“I also look at [Brugler] and [Ziegler] and people like that and a couple of our underclassmen step up, too,” Smith said.

The Hawks are coming off a 20-11 season, including a 9-7 mark in the A-10. They opened the season Nov. 7 with a home game against Rider University.

“I’m excited about both [Brugler and Ziegler] having a great year with Julia [Nyström and Smith] as juniors,” Griffin said.

This article was first published by the Philadelphia Inquirer Nov. 1, 2023 as part of the Inquirer’s college correspondent program.

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Mia Messina
Mia Messina, Sports Editor
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