MEDFORD - As is customary for the past decade, the Tufts University women's basketball team enters the 2018-19 campaign with high hopes. Head coach Carla Berube's Jumbos open their season on Friday in the Middlebury Tip-Off Classic when they face off against Springfield.
|Erica DeCandido was a WBCA honorable mention All-American last season|
The Jumbos ended last year with a 26-5 record and an appearance in the NCAA Tournament for the seventh straight season. The brown and blue advanced to the Elite Eight for the fifth straight year. In NESCAC games, Tufts was 8-2 which was third in the conference. They played in the NESCAC final for the fifth straight season.
Though 13 players return from last season, there's a different feel to the Jumbos this year following the department of all-time assists and steals leader Lauren Dillon and two-time All-American Melissa Baptista. Dillon started at point guard all four years and Baptisa is third on the team's all-time scoring list with 1,337 points. A new group of leaders will need to emerge.
"Our goal is to get better with each practice and game," said Berube, who spent the summer coaching the the USA U17 team to a FIBA World Cup gold medal. "We are looking forward to competing for both a NESCAC and national championship again. We have a long way to go, but I'm looking forward to the challenge with this great group of student athletes."
Tufts returns two seniors, five juniors, six sophomores, and three first-years for the upcoming season, so there is plenty of opportunity for young players to have an impact after graduating the two first team All-NESCAC players.
"With the departure of a great senior class that included Melissa Baptista and Dillon, it will certainly be a new look for the Jumbos," stated Berube. "I have found my team to be very hungry this off season. They are continuously working on elevating their game whether it be in the weight room or on the court."
The two seniors the Jumbos return are guard Jac Knapp and forward Katie Martensen who each appeared in all 31 games last season. They have been a part of 84 wins, including 13 NCAA victories, and two NCAA Championship game appearances. Senior co-captain Knapp averaged 10.9 points per game which was third on the team last season. She scored in double figures 18 times and posted a season-high 23 points in the NCAA Sweet 16 against Messiah. She also got to the foul line more than any other teammate last year as she took an average four foul shots a game. Knapp was among the team leaders in assists posting over two per contest in a Jumbo offense that facilitates the ball at a high level. The senior also logged the most minutes of any Jumbo. Martensen will look to produce a strong senior season. She scored a season-high 12 points in the second round of the NCAA Tournament against Ithaca. Very active on the defensive end , she was a key contributor off the bench and should see more minutes on the hardwood this season.
Honorable mention All-American Erica DeCandido has had a terrific first two seasons and will look to step it up even more as a junior. DeCandido started all 26 games she played in and was the second leading scorer a season ago with her 12.8 points per game. She led the team with a 51.6 field goal percentage as well as an 82.5 free throw percentage. DeCandido was active on the boards grabbing over six per contest. The junior was third on the team in assists as she dished out over two a game.
The Jumbos also have a plethora of junior guards who are returning that will look to play bigger roles. Cailin Harrington appeared in all 31 games for the brown and blue while averaging 3.5 points a game. Harrington had a season-high 17 points in the first round of the NCAA Tournament against Westfield State. Sadie Otley averaged 11.7 minutes per game in the 24 games she played in. Otley had her highest point total of 10 in a non-conference match against Roger Williams. Lilly Paro played in 24 games for Tufts and added six points in the Sweet 16 against Messiah. Alexis Hermes has a back injury and will not play, but is a member of the team.
NESCAC Rookie of the Year Emily Briggs will return after an impressive freshman campaign. Briggs was fourth on the team with 7.2 points and brought down 3.8 rebounds per night. Her season-high in points came against Hamilton when she scored 20 points. She leads a sophomore class that will look to make a mark this season. Forward Angela Alibrandi appeared in 24 games and was active on the defensive end. Another Jumbo forward who gave length and grit to the roster was Katie Butler who played in 15 games. Guards Amanda Towey and Erin Poindexter-McHan each saw action in at least 14 games, while guard Lilly Bolen also returns to the team and brings physicality to the table.
"Our first-years have done a great job acclimating themselves to both their academic and athletic college careers," said Berube. "Each works very hard on the court and I think they can become contributing members of the team this season. Sofia brings a great inside presence, Janette is a savvy scorer and Molly is a great ball handler who wreaks havoc on defense."
Tufts will also play Lasell on Saturday at the Middlebury Tip-Off Classic. The Jumbos home opener is on November 20 when they host Skidmore. The brown and blue will partake in the Williams Tournament and the Naples Shootout out of conference. Tufts will also play Brandeis, Bridgewater State, University of New England, Emerson, Worcester State, WPI, and Babson in non-conference matches before the NESCAC schedule starts in January. Amherst is No. 1, Bowdoin is No. 2 and Tufts is No. 6 in the D3hoops.com poll as the NESCAC will be as strong as it always is.
"We have a tough road ahead with our non-conference schedule, but I think it will help prepare us for the ultra-competitive NESCAC season," said Berube.
Written By Athletic Communications Intern Bryan Costello