On October 15 in Division III gymnasiums around the
country, college basketball teams took to the court. In all but 11 gyms, that
is. For the teams of the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC),
where the priorities of the student-athlete are clear, the season begins on
November 1. For the Wesleyan University women’s basketball team, however, the
preparation for a return to the NCAA tournament began in earnest after last
year’s loss in the Sweet 16, a disappointing finish despite a 22-5 record, the
team’s third consecutive 20-win season. Led by three senior captains, the
Cardinals returned to Middletown this fall and cemented their reputation as the
hardest working team on campus. A commitment to strength and conditioning, in
the weight room and on the track, as well as spirited and competitive pick-up
games have prepared the Cardinals for a demanding schedule. The always
challenging NESCAC contests (Wesleyan was one of three conference teams in the
final 16), the heated Little Three rivalry with Amherst and Williams colleges, a
New Year’s tournament and an eight-team tip-off tournament at Marymount
University in Virginia highlight the season’s slate.
Despite the late start, the Cardinals have had success
in the beginning of recent seasons, defeating a host team in the championship
game of season opening tournaments for the past four years. The 2005-06
squad is led by a talented trio of returning starters, seniors Ashley
Mastrangelo '06, Meg Robinson '06 and Hannah Stubbs '06. This group ranked 1-2-3
in scoring and rebounding last season, and each showed the ability to be a go-to
player upon whom the team could rely.
In her junior season and second as a starter
Ashley Mastrangelo posted great numbers (13.1 ppg, 6.9 rpg, and 75% at the
charity stripe), but what doesn’t show on the stat sheet is her emotional
leadership. During close games last season it was often Mastrangelo who made the
play that got her team back on track. Meg Robinson waited patiently for her turn
to contribute, coming off the bench for two seasons, and then had coaches around
New England wondering, gratefully, why they hadn’t seen more of her in the past.
Joining her classmates in the starting line-up, Robinson added 10.0 ppg and 6.9
rpg to the cause, while demonstrating a nose for the ball with almost three
offensive caroms a game, and a propensity for nailing the shot that deflates the
opponent. Hannah Stubbs has been named a first-team, all-NESCAC performer for
the past two seasons, and led the Cardinals in both scoring (16.6 ppg) and
rebounding (8.0 rpg) last year. She was fourth nationally in field goal
percentage, shooting an eye-popping 62.5%. An athletic and explosive post
player, Stubbs can outrun most guards, outeap taller opponents and she
demonstrates a toughness and intensity that inspires her teammates. As a group
these seniors have shown they have the talent to excel, the leadership to
inspire, and the desire to go farther.
Joining this formidable triad is the talent and
depth to make practice as competitive as games are. Kelly Bowman ’07, provided a
big spark off the bench, averaging 3.0 ppg and 3.0 rpg. A bit undersized in the
paint, Bowman has a hustle and energy that are unsurpassed and she gives her
team a boost every time she steps on the floor. Kristin Cortese ’07 suffered a
knee injury in an early-season scrimmage last year, but at the time this sweet
shooting guard was positioned to contribute, and after a successful rehab she is
poised to make her mark this year. Ginny Hermann ’07 is athletic and wiry, and
possesses a smooth stroke, quick release, and a knack for making big shots.
Sarah Milburn ’07 logged minutes at both point- and off-guard positions last
year. A crowd pleasing passer, she delivers the ball and shoots it as well.
The sophomore class offers athleticism, depth,
and a history of success. Consuelo Gonzales ’08 has great instincts and a
competitive attitude and showed her potential for a bright future in limited
opportunities last year. Nikki Maletta ’08 will vie for minutes at the point
guard spot this year, but this tough-minded guard can knock down jumpers and get
to the hole and will likely see some action at the two-spot as well. Stephanie
Savas ’08 took one for the team last year as this natural perimeter was asked to
play in the paint. An influx of size this year will allow Savas to move back to
her preferred spot where her size and toughness will be an asset. Joining the
sophomores is a transfer from Western Connecticut, Lucy Sprung ’08 who averaged
9.6 ppg and 7.5 rpg last season while playing in 25 games as a freshman.
Athletic and fit, Sprung will be a presence in the paint and bolster Wesleyan’s
strong inside game.
The veterans are joined by three first-years who
add size, talent and toughness to the squad. Ali Fourney ’09 is from
Northport High School on Long Island. This 5-11 guard will bring offensive punch
to the Cardinals with her three-point range and ability to make her own shot.
Shannah Lively is a 6-1 post player from Athol (Mass.) High School. This
consistent scorer and rebounder brings additional size and depth to the
frontcourt. Meredith Lowe '09 played at Central High School in Philadelphia, Pa.
This hard-nosed 5-11 forward has a competitive mind-set and solid basketball
fundamentals to offer the versatility of an inside-outside scoring threat.
With the onset of the season just around the corner,
there are many potential goals for Wesleyan women’s basketball -- another 20-win
season; winning the NESCAC tournament; returning to the NCAA tournament;
advancing beyond the Sweet 16 and winning The Little Three outright. For all of
the possibilities, there are only a few certainties -- this members of this team
will play as hard as they can on every possession, they will play with passion,
and they will give their best effort at all times.