As the fall sports season draws to a close and many athletes hang up their gear, the women’s basketball team is just getting started. With nightly practices beginning November 1, the Bobcats have been sprinting, shooting and dribbling their way across the court in preparation for the upcoming 2017-18 season.
Last year, the Bobcats posted an overall record of 8-16 and a conference record of 3-7, qualifying for the NESCAC playoffs. Here, the women’s team fought hard against the No. 1 nationally ranked, and eventual NCAA champion, Amherst, but ultimately lost 76-35.
This was the second year in a row that Bates made it to the NESCAC playoffs; the team has not made it past the NESCAC quarterfinals since 2010.
Though the team graduated three seniors last year, including second team All-NESCAC and All-State captain Allie Coppola ’17 and Captain Bernadette Connors ’17, six enthusiastic freshmen have joined their ranks.
“Allie was our center and Bernie was kind of our playmaker, so we’re definitely trying to fill those holes,” Ashley Kulesza ’18 comments.
Nina Davenport ’18, Emily Freedland ’18, Lyse Henshaw ’18, Kulesza and Lexie Nason ’18 will return as seniors this season to lead the underclassmen. Nason will hold an especially important role as captain of the women’s basketball team this season.
“We are unique in that we have five seniors and six freshman [this year],” says Head Women’s Basketball Coach Alison Montgomery. “We are young in a way, but we have a great opportunity to be impacted by both our youth and upperclass leadership.”
As the leading point scorer for Bates during the past three season, Davenport will surely be a key player for Bates this year. With a total of 882 points to her name, she is just 118 points shy of reaching the 1,000 point mark. On average, she has scored 294 points each season at Bates; if she continues this trend, she will reach 1,000 points with room to spare, making her the 20th person in Bates women’s basketball history to reach this prestigious milestone.
Similarly, Carly Christofi ’20 and Henshaw will return as guards for Bates, working to defend the hoop from their opponents, control the ball and score whenever the opportunity presents itself.
“We are very excited about the upcoming season,” Coach Montgomery says. “We have a nice core group of leaders in our senior class and we hope to have our most consistent year since my time here by committing to and investing in our camaraderie.”
Kulesza echoed this remark, saying, “Our dynamic this year is completely different and I think everyone is super excited and eager to do well, prove themselves, but also work together, which I think is something that we haven’t had on our team before.”
“There’s way more of a camaraderie and I think that Coach should get a lot of credit for that. She’s really focusing on rebuilding our culture and program to be a successful team who celebrates each other in all aspects, on and off the court. I think that that’s really coming through this year in more ways than it has in the past,” Kulesza continues.
However, one potential shortcoming Kulesza noted is the team’s lack of height, which, she explained, is “definitely important.” However, she believes that this weakness can instead be made into a strength for the Bobcats.
“We’re definitely an undersized team this year in terms of height,” she says. “I’m the tallest and I’m six feet, which isn’t that large in the grand scheme of things. I think we’re going to be a quick team this year, really focusing on transitions, getting up and down the court faster than our opponents and being more gritty and [using an underdog mentality] to hustle and outcompete other teams … size is definitely important, but we can work around it by playing to our other strengths.”
The women’s basketball team will test their skill in the alumni game this weekend as they prepare for their first game against Castleton at Smith College in the Tyler Tip-off Classic on Saturday, November 18.