Despite a tournament berth last season, the Emerson women’s basketball team will have a completely new offense once they hit the court and begin the year.
After losing five of their last six conference tilts to end last year, the team was able to squeeze their way into the playoff tournament for the first time since joining the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference in 2013. But their run ended abruptly, as they lost to Wheaton College 78-64 in the first round. Head coach Bill Gould said he thinks the schedule was their biggest enemy down the stretch, but he doesn’t see that carrying over.
“We played a couple of high level teams at the end of the season and especially Wheaton, who if we played 100 times, I don’t know if we were going to beat them,” Gould said. “The kids are eager to get going now.”
Junior guard and captain Emily Cameron said she can’t wait to get back into game action.
“I have a very positive outlook on this year and think we’re going to do really well,” Cameron, a visual and media arts major, said.
The Lions will be entering the new year with a smaller look. Last year’s senior captains, Catherine Cloutier and Kristin Brice, both standing at 6-foot, were not only the team’s two starting forwards, but also their leading rebounders. Sophomore forward Sierra Ducey said she knows they will be missed in the locker room just as much as on the boards.
“Kristin was a power forward and I could defend her in practice, which helped me because I’m not a traditional forward,” Ducey, a marketing communication major, said. “And coach always tells me to model my game after [Cloutier].”
With the losses up front, the Lions plan to adjust their style of play going into this season.
“We’re smaller,” junior forward Olivia Still said. “Without two of our best post players last year, we’re going to be doing a lot of four-out and one-in style of play.”
“Four-out–one-in”—or the motion offense—consists of four perimeter players and one post player as opposed to the traditional two post players scheme Gould has utilized in the past.
Gould said one of his club’s biggest strengths should help them with this style.
“We’re a much, much more versatile team than in the past,” Gould said. “Even our remaining ‘big kids’ are very versatile and can do a lot of things. We’re going to be a completely different style team than in the past, and it’s an offense I’m not even very comfortable with.”
Senior guard Janissa Delzo, senior forward Kelsey Johnson, and Cameron have been elected captains to replace the outgoing Cloutier and Brice.
Delzo will miss roughly the first five weeks of the season as she will continue studying at Emerson Los Angeles. Gould said he supports Delzo’s choice.
“Doing this is a huge part of Emerson and I tell the kids at the beginning of the year in order, the things that are important are: them and their families, education, and then basketball,” Gould said.
Regardless, Gould, who began coaching the women’s team in 2007, knows Delzo’s absence will create a considerable void on the court.
“It’s a big loss in the sense that she is by far our best defensive player,” Gould said. “She is a tough, tough competitive kid and you don’t just say I’ll plug someone in that spot.”
With two graduating seniors last year, only freshmen recruits Natalie Bush and Charlie Boyle are new additions to the Lion’s roster.
“Both should get significant minutes,” Still, a visual and media arts major, said. “They both came in very strong, which is kind of unusual and I hope that sets a trend. Natalie is great with her ball handling and Charlie has one of the best post seals I’ve ever seen.”
The group is already addressing finishing 2-8 on the road last year.
“It something we’ve been talking about in practice,” Ducey said “We have to mentally prepare ourselves better for adversity better because it’s different playing in another gym.”
The women will open up their year with the annual Emerson Tip-Off Tournament held on Nov. 14 and 15. Gould said it is a ritual now.
“This gives the Emerson community a chance to come down and check out the environment,” Gould said. “[Teams] call me because they want to come. They like the school and they like the city.”
The Lions will also travel to West Point for a game against Division I team, Army University, on Dec. 19.
“This game is important,” Cameron said. “It will be a different experience playing that good of a team and will show what we can gain but also learn.”
Gould said he isn’t looking for perfection but this time around he wants them to improve in an aspect that hurt them in previous years.
“I expect us to compete at a high level in every game we play and I feel like there were certain times last year we didn’t do that,” Gould said. “If I feel at the end of the season like we didn’t compete at a high level consistently this year, we wouldn’t have done well but I’m really excited.”