Commentary: Working towards the next level

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November 10, 2015

12:01 AM

As head coach Ed Swanson’s third season at William and Mary begins, many people are wondering what the women’s basketball team will look like this year. Only losing one starter, the team has increased its depth and has been stepping up its game in the offseason, preparing to be a force in the conference this winter.

“It’s like Christmas again,” Swanson said. “We’re excited.”

In 2014-15, the Tribe held a winning regular season record of 15-14 (15-16 overall after the postseason), much improved from the 8-21 2013-14 record. In the Colonial Athletic Association, the Tribe held an even 9-9 record after the CAA Tournament in March, which saw a College loss to Hofstra in the quarterfinals. The Tribe then earned its first-ever postseason tournament berth, attending the Women’s Basketball Invitational, where it lost by a single point 57-56 at Xavier.

“[The WBI] was a great reward for a really good season or building season,” Swanson said. “We were excited to be invited to that tournament, obviously not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is the NCAA tournament, but before we get there, there’s some steps we have to take.”

[The WBI] was a great reward for a really good season or building season,” Swanson said. “We were excited to be invited to that tournament, obviously not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is the NCAA tournament, but before we get there, there’s some steps we have to take.”

Now basketball season rolls around again, starting up later this week. And the Tribe appears poised and ready to improve from last year and from the preseason rankings.

“We were ranked sixth in the CAA preseason standings so we’re trying to finish higher than that,” junior forward Alexandra Masaquel said. “I think we have a lot of people who can contribute in a lot of ways.”

Masaquel, sophomore guard Jenna Green, junior guard Marlena Tremba and sophomore center Abby Rendle are the returning starters, although the team has an additional seven returners and four freshmen.

We were ranked sixth in the CAA preseason standings so we’re trying to finish higher than that,” junior forward Alexandra Masaquel said. “I think we have a lot of people who can contribute in a lot of ways.”

Tremba led the team with an average of 12.5 points per game, while Masaquel led in rebounds per game at 6.4. Rendle broke the program record for rookie blocks with 67 and Green had a team-high 3.2 assists per game. However, statistics are not the only story for the College this year, but rather the offseason work growing off the relative success of last year. Swanson spoke about intangible improvements from the summer to now.

“My biggest message was that I thought we had to become a better team,” he said. “I thought we had a really good year, but I think our strength has got to be our cohesiveness on offense and on defense. You have to have a good team chemistry so we’re trying to work on that as much as possible.”

With a host of returners, most of the team has college basketball experience, much different from last year. With one senior, five juniors, five sophomores and four freshmen, the team is young but holds a lot of talent.

I think the biggest thing is that we have a large group back, whether they’re starters or nonstarters, that are familiar with what our standards are and familiar with what our expectations are,” Swanson said.

“I think the biggest thing is that we have a large group back, whether they’re starters or nonstarters, that are familiar with what our standards are and familiar with what our expectations are,” Swanson said.

The one senior, forward Brooke Stewart, played in 29 games last year but didn’t start. During the offseason, she worked on hitting three-pointers as well as increasing her defensive presence with hopes of making a larger impact this year. Another returner, sophomore guard/forward Jeanne Gaumont should also be one to watch this season.

“[Stewart] made significant strides [on defense] and opened our eyes a great deal,” Swanson said. “[Gaumont] is probably our best passer, the person who has the best feel for the game. Everybody has improved, but really those two players opened up the coaches’ eyes.”

Just as last year’s freshman class earned significant playing time and dominated some statistical categories, this year’s incoming class should have an impact on the team’s performance. Bianca Boggs is a new guard from Maryland, Ali Engelhardt is a strong shooter from California who will play as a forward at the College, Misha Jones will be either a guard or a forward and comes out of Northern Virginia, and Chandler Smith is a 6’3” center from Maryland from the same school as Boggs. Stewart spoke on how the new freshmen are adjusting to playing college basketball.

[Stewart] made significant strides [on defense] and opened our eyes a great deal,” Swanson said. “[Gaumont] is probably our best passer, the person who has the best feel for the game. Everybody has improved, but really those two players opened up the coaches’ eyes.”

“Every single one of us commanded the game in high school, so the big difference I would say is people are bigger, people are stronger,” Stewart said.

While last year’s starters and other returners are building teamwork skills with the freshmen, the main philosophy of the team has been to focus and increase the output in effort and success. Working on shooting range, speed, defense and other facets of play, the team looks even better than it did last year, which ended up as one of the most successful years of the program’s 30 years as a Division I team.

The men’s team continues to gain traction, and the women hope to capitalize off that attention this season with home games from November to February at Kaplan Arena. Masaquel expects the team will draw bigger crowds with the improvements to the team.

“The fast pace and the way we communicate with each other have adjusted nicely, and this year we should see a great turnout,” Masaquel said.

The College opens its season at Mount St. Mary’s Friday in Emmitsburg, Md., with tip-off at 7 p.m. The home opener at Kaplan Arena is Nov. 16 against Grambling, also at 7 p.m.

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Nick Cipolla

Sports Editor Nick Cipolla '17 is a neuroscience major from Virginia Beach, Va. He was previously Associate Sports Editor.