North Xtra: Butler grad boosts La Roche

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Combine skill, speed, shooting accuracy, floor leadership, respect for teammates and opponents, add a heavy dose of competitiveness, drape the number 30 jersey over her shoulders and you would have Casie Cygan, the recent Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference "Player of the Week."

"It was exciting," Cygan said about the accolade, which was given for her performance during the week of Nov. 18. "[That's] the first time an award like that was ever given to me."

The standout play of La Roche College's 5 foot-5 senior guard from Butler hasn't gone without notice during her first three years on the McCandless campus. She's been selected third team All-AMCC and named to the NCAA Division III All-Region team last season.

A notable resume from a girl who recalled with a smile, "my fourth grade teacher encouraged me to begin playing basketball."

Cygan credits Redhawks coach Kam Gissendanner with improving her inside game.

Instruction is paying off as Cygan is currently leading the conference with a 21.5 points per game scoring average. She has led the Redhawks to a strong 4-0 start, including the championship of the Penn State Beaver Tip-Off Tournament.

The Redhawks, who defeated Saint Vincent College, 78-68 Saturday on the Bearcats home floor as Cygan scored 21, don't play again until Sunday when they take on Chatham College at the Kerr Fitness Center.

A banner in the Kerr Fitness Center lists women's players who have scored 1,000 points in their basketball career at La Roche. Cygan just leapfrogged the third and fourth players on the list to reach second place with 1,146 points.

Former Redhawks standout Chantelle Jennings holds the school career scoring record with 1,535 points.

Gissendanner, in her second season as Redhawks coach, recognizes Cygan's qualities as a person and a player.

"She's a leader who takes time to help our younger players," Gissendanner said. "She also has a scoring mentality and when other teams key on her, it opens things up for our other players.

"Casie Cygan is all about LaRoche."

A 2010 Butler Area High School graduate, Cygan is studying health science as her major at La Roche with a minor in psychology. She played for Dorothea Epps at Butler.

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