After hours of strenuous pre-season conditioning and training, the Vassar women’s basketball team look to set the tone for a winning season in their opener against Babson College on Nov. 15. Having already won both of their scrimmage games in preseason against William Patterson on Oct. 31 and Sage on Nov. 7, the team looks ready to make their mark on the Liberty League.
After achieving a record-setting 23 wins and an appearance at the NCAA Tournament Second Round last season, the Brewers will look to cope with the loss of three-time All-American Cydni Masuoka and All-Liberty League forward Hannah Senftleber through its teamwork and fresh talent. With the loss of these individuals, every player on the team will look to step up and contribute more to the team.
The Brewers have prepared for these departures, as Head Coach Candice Brown noted, “The asset that we have this season is that the scoring will be spread amongst several people, not among individual people. We have multiple people on the team that will end up with double figures. This is going to be huge for us.” This positive change from last season will create a good balance between individuality and teamwork.
The addition of three new freshmen will prove significant to the team’s success. Coach Brown stated, “The freshmen will add athleticism to the team. They also will add a basketball I.Q. because they have knowledge of the game and the right competitive attitude. All of them come from high school programs where they were extremely successful.” And with a small squad of only nine players, these three freshmen will be a crucial addition to the team in terms of skill and athleticism. Senior captain Allyson Pemberton is confident in the new player’s ability “They are a quick and athletic group. They will transition into the speed of a college basketball game easily.”
In an emailed statement, freshman Kimberly Romanoff elaborated on her aspirations for this season. “We have older girls on the team that really know how to score, so in addition to scoring some points of my own, I am hoping to be able to distribute the ball and average a solid number of assists per game.” This unselfish team-oriented attitude is spread throughout the team and stands them in good stead moving forward into this year.
For the Brewers, this season is all about reaching their potential. Romanoff explained; “After our first scrimmage against William Patterson, our coach told us that we played at about a 5 on a 10 point scale—10 being where she hopes that we are when we reach our full potential. Even at a 5 we were playing intensely, so I can’t wait to see how fun it will be to play together as a team when we reach that 10.”
In terms of preparation for the season, the team has been practicing six days a week and lifting twice a week, which is vital to team success according to Pemberton, “We have done a lot of conditioning drills, so we will be in good shape come the first game which is important because we have low numbers.” However, these low numbers will work to the Brewer’s advantage. In an emailed statement, junior forward Colleen O’Connell said, “This year, I think we realize we are going to face some challenges, as we are a small, young team, but this group has already realized the power of the group over the individual. This is an 8-man show, and the only way we are going to be successful is by pulling together when we are challenged, rather than apart.”
The team showed their resilience during a preseason scrimmage against William Patterson when they came back from being down at halftime to win the game. Coach Brown explained, “The scrimmage really excited me about the upcoming season. We went into the locker room down by 11 points at halftime and to see their perseverance to come back and win was huge. It’s exciting to see what is to come. They showed great character.”
This character will likely be needed when the Brewers play powerhouses No. 11 Montclair State and No. 17 Williams College this season, both listed in the Top 25 nationally. However, Vassar women’s basketball has risen to the challenge over the years and will look to do the same this season. The Brewers defeated Williams in the NCAA first round last year, before losing a close game to Scranton in the second round, and there’s little doubt that they’re looking to do the same this year.
The team ended their 2009-2010 season by placing 5th in the Liberty League and have since slowly worked their way up to finishing 2nd this past season. If the upward trend continues, the Brewers will find themselves once again vying for the League’s coveted title. Coach Brown showed the team’s eagerness to win, saying, “I would love for us to win the Liberty League championship and give ourselves an opportunity to compete in the NCAA tournament. We have the skill set to get that done and we are hoping to peak at the right time.”
The team’s youth and small size has the potential for them to falter when faced by more experienced and larger teams. However, the Brewers will try to use it to their advantage. O’Connell believes that the team’s small numbers offer an advantage over these larger teams. “We are a small group, I think we can be very special this year because of how tight-knit we are,” she explained.
With everyone understanding their roles and having worked hard in the off-season and pre-season, the Brewers are looking to have a very successful season. Coach Brown was more than confident about the team’s aspirations for this season, “What don’t I hope to accomplish?” So who knows, maybe a national championship is in the team’s sights.