A new season means a clean slate for sports teams; it's a time to start fresh regardless of the previous year's results. For the Emerson women's basketball team, though, the slate was a bit cleaner than expected, as reigning Great Northeast Athletic Conference Coach of the Year Melissa Hart stepped down just as the school year began.
As a result, the team had to adjust to new leadership as William Gould, a former assistant coach at Bentley College, stepped in.
The Lions had little time to prepare though,with the prospect of the tough University of Maine Farmington Tip-Off Tournament that opened the season.
In the difficult first-round tournament match-up against the University of Southern Maine on Nov. 16, the Lions fell 79-65 to last season's national runner-up. The score was deceiving, as Southern Maine's lead was in the single digits until the final minutes of the contest. The team put up a valiant effort, but a strong offensive push from USM proved to be Emerson's downfall.
Although it was a loss,the team was not discouraged, according to senior guard Lindsay DeStefano, who felt that the Lions exceeded expectations in the game.
"I think they thought it would be an easy game, but we came out and fought hard," the broadcast journalism major said. "We ended up losing, but we never gave up and we fought hard all game and kept it close."
The Lions had little time to reflect before their next game against the University of Maine at Presque Isle on Nov. 17. The team started off slowly, trailing by a point at halftime, but a 17-5 run to start the second half put Emerson ahead. DeStefano said the team knew they had to pull together after halftime.
"We have always been a team that plays down to other teams' levels and made games interesting that shouldn't be," Destefano said. "We need to have a killer instinct."
In the end, Emerson secured the win, 73-58, evening their record at 1-1 after their first week of action. Junior guard Bri Papa was selected to the All-Tournament team. Emerson also received strong outings from DeStefano, junior guard Maude Okrah and junior forward Lauren Vassallo, as all three averaged double figures in scoring.
After the tournament, Gould said the team still has a long way to go to be more successful in future games.
"The biggest challenge for the team at the moment is for them to continue to get to know me and my style both in terms of basketball and in coaching personality," he said. "Anytime there is a coaching change, there will be a period of adjustment and we need to speed up that process."
Still, the team expects to be a contender in the GNAC and be competitive every game.
"We expect to be a force in, and eventually win, the GNAC," said Papa, a broadcast journalism major.
DeStefano agreed the team has the talent necessary to be tough in the league, and they are ready for their first non-tournament game at Massachusetts Institute of Technology tonight at 8 p.m.
"This year we are trying to take a step forward and start knocking off teams because we have the talent to compete with any team in the GNAC," she said. "It's just a matter of performing up to that talent level."