strongIan Brophy, Beacon Correspondent/strong
Last year the women’s basketball team ended its season with a loss to St. Joseph’s College of Maine in the first round of the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) playoffs.
Head coach Bill Gould said last season’s 9-17 overall record might have been disappointing, but the team learned from its experiences.
“We weren’t a good team according to our record,” said Gould, who will be entering his fifth season coaching the Lions. “We just had a really young team, and I think we got better as the year went on.”
Olivia DiNucci, a junior political communication major, said the team’s poor performance last season has her motivated for the upcoming campaign.
“[Last season] was inconsistent, and it was kind of frustrating because I knew we were good,” said DiNucci, who is entering her first season as a team captain. “In general, it made me hungry for this season.”
The Lions’ 2010 senior captain and post player, Kathy Andrade is the only player not returning to the Lions from last season.
DiNucci, a GNAC First-Team All-Star last season, and the GNAC rookie of the year in 2009, said the 1,182-point scorer will be difficult to replace, but the incoming freshmen will play a big part in filling the gap.
“[Kathy] was a presence, she really was, she got in there, she rebounded well, she was a smart player,” DiNucci said. “We have two new freshmen in that have legitimate size. I think having both height and talent there, we’re not missing out too much.”
Gould said losing Andrade’s leadership will be tough, but a team effort is key to replacing her.
“We can replace her with a group of young players that’s really good,” said Gould. “If one person tries to take her place that will be a mistake.”
The Lions added five new faces to the team. Freshmen Macy Day, Catherine Cloutier, Kristin Brice, Marissa Nobile, and Carol Peralta — who Gould said add height that will be key this season.
“As a group [the freshmen] across the board are tall, so there is good size and really good athleticism,” said Gould. “I think they are going to have a significant impact this year.”
DiNucci said she expects Cloutier, a visual and media arts major, to be in the starting lineup.
Gould said he is putting in a new run-and-gun offense this year to use the the team’s strengths and hide its inexperience on defense.
“We are putting in a brand new offense to utilize both the height and versatility,” Gould said. “We are pushing the ball a little bit more. If we can hide some of the defensive weaknesses of our team by getting up and down the floor, getting some easier shots in transition, making it tougher for them to come back down on us, then that will be good.”
DiNucci said she likes to play in the new system, which highlights the team’s offensive strengths.
“I like it because it’s not set and everyone plays every position,” said DiNucci. “It’s more of a dynamic offense.”
Shannon Norton, a junior point guard, added she is excited to be a part of the new unit.
“I’m really liking our new offense this year,” Norton said. “There’s more movement in it and there’s so many different options.”
Amy Sherman, a junior communication studies major, and DiNucci will be entering the season as the team’s new captains.
Their leadership will be crucial to the five freshmen on the team. Sherman and DiNucci will have to guide this young team through a season that most of the players said could end with a GNAC championship.
Gould said DiNucci’s ability to torment opposing defenses makes her a key part of the team.
“She is a captain, and she is our best shooter. Her biggest strength is the fact that she can just punish teams,” said Gould. “She can score and she really extends defenses and makes people have to worry about her.”
Cloutier, 6-feet tall, will also be a key player this season. As a freshman, she should get a good amount of playing time.
DiNucci said Cloutier’s height, athleticism, and ability to learn will be a big help this season.
“She’s versatile, she can shoot from outside, she can play inside,” said DiNucci. “She learns well from her mistakes, and her athleticism is a huge plus.”
Cloutier said she wants to become a more solid player and help the Lions win a championship.
“I work with my team instead of trying to make individual play. I want to get better and just want to help [the team] succeed,” Cloutier said.
The Lions are going to rely on their height and ability to shoot the ball to outscore teams and win games.
Gould also emphasized the young team’s need to get better in other aspects of the game. “We need to improve on our basic understanding of collegiate defense,” he said.
While the team’s ability to make shots will play a role in its success, DiNucci, Gould, and Sherman all said team unity will be key to the team’s fortune.
“If we just stay together, play well, get one common goal which is just to win as many games as we possibly can, and if we do that then we will be fine,” Gould said.
DiNucci and Norton said that leadership from the older players and team composure are going to be important for the squad as well.
“We have to definitely keep our composure,” said Norton. “We don’t have any seniors, so it’s us juniors that have to keep the team together and lead for the freshmen because they are not used to college basketball.”
DiNucci added, “We are still a fairly young team and getting everyone to be on the same page, be unified, and have chemistry — that comes with time.”
The Lions have their eyes on winning every conference game, but three of those have added importance, according to the players and Gould.
A game against Emmanuel College Jan. 21 marks an opportunity for the Lions to take down the defending GNAC champions. Gould even compared the rivalry between Emerson and Emmanuel to that of the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.
“Emmanuel is always number one. It’s just one of those kind of games,” Gould said. “I am very pleased whenever we can beat them.”
Another game that holds significance for the returning players is the Jan. 31 matchup at home against St. Joseph’s College of Maine. The Monks eliminated the Lions in the first round of last year’s playoffs and Sherman said the returning players want some revenge.
“We really look forward to playing St. Josephs of Maine again — I think it will be a really competitive game,” she said.
And a Feb. 7 game against Suffolk University is going to hold special importance for one player in particular.
Shannon Norton transferred to Emerson from Suffolk after her freshman year and had a great performance last season against the Rams.
“The number one game that I’m looking forward to this year is against Suffolk,” said Norton.
“I’m still friends with girls on the Suffolk team, and we ended up beating them last year. I happened to have my best game. I kind of feel a lot of pressure to have a good game [against Suffolk].”
Gould said it is early in the season, and he is still evaluating the team, but wants to win games against lesser opponents.
“I want our team to win the games they are capable of winning. If that means we win eight then I’m fine with that, if we should win 17 then I expect to win 17 and 16 won’t be enough,” Gould said. “We need a little bit more time to kind of see where we are at.”
Gould added that the team has definitely improved from last year and could win the conference championship.
“We are going to be better than we were last year, there is no doubt about that,” Gould said. “I believe we have a real good shot to win the championship. I think we are on par with a lot of the other teams that also have a shot.”
emBrophy can be reached at email@example.com./em