Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Women’s basketball focuses on unity in improvement

Senior+guard+Ella+Bushee+in+a+game+against+Coast+Guard+on+Feb.+18%2C+2023
Arthur Mansavage
Senior guard Ella Bushee in a game against Coast Guard on Feb. 18, 2023

The Emerson women’s basketball team thought they were ready to take a leap forward in 2022-23. 

After a difficult 2021-22 season, in which the squad dressed eight college basketball rookies every night for the whole year and finished with an 8-16 record, the team had reason to believe that 2022-23 would be more positive. Only two seniors departed after the season’s end, and with more experience under their belts, the players felt they could make wholesale improvements. 

They were wrong. 

The 2022-23 squad finished with a nearly identical 8-17 record, missing the NEWMAC postseason for the second year in a row (third, if you count the 2019-20 canceled season). A season-ending injury to Div. I transfer guard Charlotte Levison did not help. 

Despite last year’s struggles, this year’s team feels the odds of success are far more in their favor. Senior guard Ava Salti said the team isn’t hesitating to aim high. 

“We want to get into the playoffs and win the first NEWMAC [postseason] game in program history,” Salti said in an interview with the Beacon. 

Such goals may seem lofty in light of the team’s similar attitude and lack of follow-through last season, but Head Coach Bill Gould insisted that this iteration of the team is different, having earned their stripes over the past two seasons. 

“We had a couple of down years, there’s no way we can sugarcoat it,” he said. “We just didn’t do well enough. We needed to grow and […] learn. [This year] it’s a really good blend of veterans that have been through the trials and tribulations and some new kids that have that eagerness and energy. You add to all of that together and it makes up for a really good team. We all feel very confident we’re going to do well.”

Part of the team’s evolution comes with its changes in roster—the departure of senior captains Chelsea Gibbons and Carla Pelino leaves a void that Gould said new players are eager to fill. 

“[Gibbons and Pelino] were tough kids that played hard,” he said. “Chelsea was a gritty offensive player. Carla was a defensive stalwart for us. [Replacing them] is a process. The positive is, we have six [new] kids that can figure out how to add some of what they brought.”

Those six new players include five first-years and one transfer from Bryant University, a Div. I college. But they aren’t just eager to replace former leaders—these new players are aiming to push the team to new heights, said Salti. 

“The first day I got here in August, I got a text from a few of the freshmen asking to come and work out with me,” she said. “Usually it’s only me that comes here and works out [in the preseason]. But this year, a bunch of other girls are here. You’re only worthy of the work you put in, and that’s the attitude change this year. If you don’t push yourself to be the best, then you’re not going to be.”

That mentality, Gould said, is one that lends itself to a championship mindset.

“This year, more than any other year, they’ve been doing what they need to do in the preseason to make that happen,” he said. “[A championship mindset] doesn’t start on the day the championship game is played. It starts well before that, in the summer and the preseason.”

With a new mindset and an upgraded roster, the Lions plan on roaring their way back to the postseason. Salti said that starts with a unified team both on and off the court. 

“We have a lot of new personnel,” she said. “That comes with changes in team chemistry, and the cohesiveness and togetherness we’re going to be able to play with is going to be worlds different than last year.”

First-year shooting guard Kendra Dodd added that as practices have begun, she’s noticed that unity shine through in the way players take care of one another. 

“Everyone truly cares about each other,” she said. “It was one of the main reasons I came here, [because of] the family atmosphere.”

Gould believes that unity will translate into the team’s new collectivist offensive system. 

“We changed our offense to better suit the makeup of our team this year,” he said. “We want to be an incredibly unselfish team that not only is willing but enjoys making the extra pass. I don’t want anybody to think that they have to do it on their own. So let’s be willing and able to make that pass and actually be excited about it.”

If all goes according to plan, this system should feed into Gould’s ultimate goal: putting his players on the path to play in meaningful games. 

“[We want to be] playing in games that matter,” he said. “My goal is to give them that feeling that they’re playing in a game that matters, that they feel the excitement of playoff basketball. That’s a whole different animal that, as collegiate athletes, none of these kids have experienced yet.”

“At the end of the year, you’re looking at how two other teams in the conference did,” he continued. “Because it’s important to say, ‘who are we going to play [in the playoffs]?’ We haven’t done that in a while. That’s what is fun as a collegiate athlete.”

Those games, however, are a long way down the line. For now, Salti said, the team is just focused on preparing for their first game against rival Suffolk University on Nov. 8—though with a little more confidence than they had last season. 

“We’ll take it one game at a time,” she said. “We’re focused on nailing the fundamentals, so I’m not looking too far ahead, [but] we believe that we can beat anybody. Last year, teams that you look at their roster and they have a lot more talent, we would go into the game not feeling too good about ourselves. It’s not going to be like that this year. We think we can run with anybody.”

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About the Contributor
Leo Kagan, Assistant Sports Editor
Leo Kagan (he/him) is a freshman journalism major from the North Shore of Boston. He currently edits The Beacon’s sports section. He is also a member of Noteworthy, one of Emerson’s a cappella groups. In his spare time, he enjoys listening to Wallows and eating Ben & Jerry’s.
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