Women’s basketball season preview: Boggs, team look to shatter expectations

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Senior guard Bianca Boggs, named to the preseason first-team all-conference, will look to help her team finally enter the upper echelon of the CAA. COURTESY PHOTO / TRIBE ATHLETICS

In 2017, William and Mary was projected to finish third in its conference, but the Tribe struggled down the stretch and ended up in sixth place. The College lost in its first game of the Colonial Athletic Association tournament to third-seeded Elon, 67-50. This season, the College was picked to finish sixth in the CAA. However, head coach Ed Swanson is confident that this young team could exceed expectations and take the next step to being a top team in the CAA.

“I look at us as an upper-echelon team this year,” Swanson said. “We’re going to have to scratch and claw to get into the top four, but I do think that this team does have the possibilities of turning the corner.”

The College will be forced to play without two starters from last year: guard Jenna Green ’18 and center Abby Rendle ’18. Green and Rendle were part of the winningest class in program history with 66 career victories. Green averaged 10.5 points and 5.9 assists per game for her senior campaign, while Rendle chipped in an average of 12.1 points and 7.8 rebounds. Rendle also averaged 4.3 blocks her senior year to give her 350 career blocks, the most ever in CAA women’s basketball for an individual career.

“We’re going to have to scratch and claw to get into the top four, but I do think that this team does have the possibilities of turning the corner.”

This year, the Tribe will be led by an All-CAA first team preseason selection in senior guard Bianca Boggs. Boggs also finished as first team All-CAA her junior season and has the potential to make CAA Player of the Year this season. Last season, she averaged 15.2 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. Despite losing Green, Boggs has confidence in projected starting freshman guard Eva Hodgson.

“I think we’re pretty set to go with [Hodgson],” Boggs said. “Like I said, she’s incredibly mature, her ball handling is great, her court vision is great, her passing is on point … I think after one or two games hopefully she’ll be just fine.”

The College will also have the leadership of senior guard Misha Jones and senior center Chandler Smith. Smith will be looking to provide a viable option in the post, along with junior forward Victoria Reynolds, after playing behind Rendle for a majority of her career and averaging 4.1 minutes last season. Jones has also seen limited action in her time at the College due to injury issues and the success of other guards like Boggs and Green.

“I try to relay coach Swanson’s messages and the assistant coaches’ messages as well as I can,” Jones said.

Several underclassmen have the potential to make a significant impact for the Tribe. Sophomore guard Libby Underwood played limited minutes in her freshman season but could be a key player off of the bench for the Tribe backcourt. Furthermore, fellow sophomore guard Nyla Pollard started 27 games last season and could see even more minutes this year. She averaged 4.1 points per game in her freshman season. Junior guard Nari Garner also saw 8.1 points per game mostly off the bench last season and could provide more scoring for the College in the 2018-19 campaign.

This year, the Tribe will be led by an All-CAA first team preseason selection in senior guard Bianca Boggs. Boggs also finished as first team All-CAA her junior season and has the potential to make CAA Player of the Year this season.

The College’s non-conference schedule is relatively difficult and starts Nov. 6 at home with a game against in-state rival Virginia Commonwealth.

“I’m really looking forward to Tuesday night,” Swanson said. “Obviously, an in-state rival, and we’re excited to have VCU back on the schedule, and we’re excited to be home in Kaplan.”

The Tribe also has a stretch of three straight games against in-state opponents Dec. 5, 8 and 21. The College will host Richmond Dec. 5 before traveling to Old Dominion and Norfolk State.

In conference, the Tribe will take on each of the other nine CAA teams twice, with one of the games at Kaplan Arena and the other game at its opponent’s home arena. The College’s first game of the CAA schedule will take place at Hofstra Jan. 4. Its first home game of conference play will be the following week, Jan. 11 against North Carolina-Wilmington. Other key games for the Tribe in CAA play include home matchups against defending conference champion Elon Jan. 20 and the Gold Rush game against last year’s regular season champion Drexel Feb. 3. The College will look to advance further than the quarterfinals, like in the 2017-18 season, in the CAA tournament, which will be held March 13-16 in Newark, Delaware.