After the women’s basketball team reached the quarterfinals in the final season of its old conference two years ago, its season last year—the first in its new conference—was ultimately forgettable.
But now the good—two upset wins over New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference mainstays Wellesley and Coast Guard—and the bad, a 4-16 overall record in the NEWMAC, are now worth the same as the price of admission to an Emerson home game: nothing.
“We got beat badly by some teams last year, and in some cases we went on the road and beat those same teams,” said head coach Bill Gould. “In terms of this year, all of that stuff means absolutely nothing. The bottom line is, we aren’t new anymore and we know what to expect.”
The Lady Lions finished 8-17 overall last season, resulting in a second-to-last place finish in the conference. They did not qualify for the playoffs.
This season, Gould said the team has a new mindset, a better feel for the competition in the NEWMAC, and a different game plan.
“In past seasons, running the floor has been hard,” said Gould, entering his eighth season at Emerson and 25th overall as a coach. “But this year we have the athleticism and the numbers of kids to get out and run. It’s all we’ve been doing in practice, and while you can’t keep a fast pace if you’re committing 18 turnovers a game, I feel that this year we are ready for it.”
This new strategy marks a shift for Gould. At 6-foot-5, Gould was a big man in his playing days and had a long history of developing low-post players in a style of play that favors slow and grinding offenses. Perhaps the best player in the Emerson’s history, Kathy Andrade, who scored over 1,000 points under Gould, was an undersized power forward at 5-foot-6. Senior Kristen Brice, the team’s leading scorer last year at 13.8 points per game, is also a power forward.
Part of this change in philosophy comes in conjunction with a strong recruiting class. While the team graduated one senior last year, it has five incoming freshmen, some of whom Gould thinks can make an immediate impact.
Sierra Ducey, a 6-foot freshman, can play multiple positions and could be a big part of a new, quicker offense, said Gould.
“A faster offense is something I’m used to,” said Ducey, a marketing communication major. “I know that playing against fast teams is really hard to defend. So I think it’s good for us to try to become that team.”
The transition from the Great Northeast Athletic Conference to the more competitive NEWMAC proved difficult for the majority of teams at Emerson. While Gould noted an increase in talent conference-wide, he said it was the dedication and mindset of other teams that stuck out to him.
“There were teams in the GNAC, where if we showed up with five players, we were going to win the game,” he said. “That doesn’t happen in the NEWMAC. Everyone is just better. Everyone has full-time coaches and scouts, and they know what our best players are going to do.”
Maria Santora, a sophomore shooting guard, echoed Gould’s sentiment.
“We all agreed that we need to step up and take this season more seriously after seeing how tough [the NEWMAC] really is,” said Santora, a journalism major. “I think we have the experience we really lacked last year, and our goals for our second year in the NEWMAC are a lot higher.”
As the season approaches, Gould said he is confident the Lions will improve in their second NEWMAC season.
“I’ve learned at Emerson that predicting wins doesn’t mean anything,” he said. “I don’t know what our record is going to be, but I know we’re going to be a better team.”
The Lions open against Keuka College on Nov. 15 and begin conference play on Nov. 25 against Wheelock.
“I expect us to be 4-0 by December,” said Gould. “I can live with 3-1 if a team we play is better than expected, but we should be in 4-0 heading into our game against Wellesley [on Dec. 3].”
Beacon correspondent James Cain contributed to this report.