Women’s basketball rebuilds team after loss of key seniors

For two years, junior forward Sam Boyle played alongside her older sister Charlie Boyle ‘19, but she will be taking the court alone this year. Instead of inheriting her sister’s playstyle, however, Sam Boyle hopes to bring a new dimension to the women’s basketball team.

“[Charlie] is a really good player, but I’ve played on a lot of teams without her,” Sam Boyle said in an interview. “I’ve learned how to change up my game when she’s not there. I knew I was big but I wasn’t that big, and if I wanted to get better and continue to play at a high level, I needed to get different skill sets. I completely pushed away from the post and worked on shooting and dribbling. It’s just going to be a complete offensive switch from where we were last year.” 

The Lions finished 17-9 last season, winning 12 of their games at home. The team earned the fifth seed in the postseason and faced the fourth-seeded Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the NEWMAC playoffs. The Lions lost the game 76-58 despite 18 points from guard Natalie Busch ‘19. 

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For the season, Charlie Boyle led the team in scoring with 13.5 points per game while Busch contributed 6.9 points per game. 

“[Natalie Busch and Charlie Boyle] were both great players,” head coach Bill Gould said in an interview. “Both were really smart and understood the game. Charlie was more of a physical presence and Natalie was just super smooth with the ball. Together, it was just a really tough duo for other teams to deal with. Obviously, you’re going to have to replace them and I think we can.”

The team added four new players since the end of last season, bringing in freshman forward Carla Pelino, freshman guard Chelsea Gibbons, and freshman center Chloe Allen, along with transfer student and junior guard junior Kailee Yan. Senior guard Kate Foultz praised the freshman for their willingness to adapt and encouraged them to be more vocal. 

“One thing that’s nice about the freshmen is that they’re so accepting of what their roles are and so willing to listen to criticism and change,” Foultz said in an interview. “We’ve also expressed how if you’re a freshman, you should feel comfortable and willing enough to speak up. Everyone deserves to have their voice heard and they shouldn’t feel like they don’t have the right to say anything just because they are freshmen.”

However, bringing in new players alone will not suffice in the team’s efforts to alter both its offense and defense. The team’s offense revolved around Charlie Boyle in years past, but according to Gould, opponents will change their defensive tactics with her departure. 

“The biggest issue in replacing [the seniors] is that other teams had to spend so much time worrying about how to stop them, especially Charlie on the inside,” Gould said. “That’s not going to be there this year, so [teams are] going to change their defensive strategy, and we have to be ready to adjust to their adjustments.”

The Lions ranked fourth out of 11 teams in three-point percentage and assists per game last season, shooting 33.7 percent from beyond the arc and dishing out 13.8 assists per game. To compensate for the missing interior presence this year, Gould said the team will be moving, passing, and cutting more to boost those key statistics. 

“We changed it to a much more movement-centered offense as opposed to a post player-centered offense,” Gould said. “The unselfishness and high basketball IQ that we have is allowing us to do that and [the team] picked it up really fast. It’s highlighting the real positives of what we did last year and really putting the focus on that. Now we can utilize the other strengths that we have and make it more team-wide.”

With a revamped offense, the coaching staff also changed to a new defensive scheme—one focused around high intensity and aggressiveness. 

“One thing that we’re really focusing on is our defense,” Foultz said. “Making sure we have the best defense in the conference is a goal we are trying to accomplish. A lot of that is based on rotations and actual logistics of how we’re going to play teams, but mostly just attitude and hustle. If we can stop teams from scoring, I know that we have the offensive threats to score.”

Although the Lions lost two starters, they retained eight players from last season’s roster. Sam Boyle believes the bench depth will allow for consistent production on the court. 

“We have a deep bench so when all these teams are getting really tired and all their best players are gassing out, it’s going to be good for us because we can consistently sub in and have new fresh legs,” Sam Boyle said. “I think it’s going to be beneficial for us if we are continuing with that type of aggressive play because our defense this year is intended to be in your face like 110 percent.”

For the upcoming season, the NEWMAC teams will be playing under a different schedule than years prior. Previously, conference games started in late November and each team played 16 conference games. This season, conference games will begin in mid-January and teams play each other once for a total of 10 conference games per team. Although the number of non-conference games will increase this year, Sam Boyle said those games will allow the team to look at what can be improved. 

“Non-conference play is important to figure out your mistakes and where you can grow,” Sam Boyle said. “We just played a team last Saturday and they were a high Division II team. We came out really strong and played pretty well against them. We saw what worked for us and they were shocked in the beginning. So they came back and we saw what we could work on. I think that’s what’s going to be the biggest key for us is to really hone down on where we lose it.”

Foultz believes a NEWMAC championship is completely within reach for the Lions.

“I just know that we have so much talent and I would absolutely love to end the season with a ring,” Foultz said. “I think that’s a very reasonable goal and somewhat of an expectation for us, so I’m really excited to see how we do this year.”

The Lions will play their season opener at Suffolk University on Tuesday, Nov. 12 at 7 p.m. and will play their first conference game against Smith College on Jan. 18.

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