Women's Basketball Ready For New Chapter
Contact: Matthew Hart
AMHERST, Mass. – After four consecutive trips to the national semifinals, 2012-13 will begin a new chapter for Amherst College women’s basketball. Gone is a six-person senior class which posted an unthinkable 124-8 record over the winningest four-year span in Division III history. Gone are National Player of the Year Caroline Stedman and fellow All-NESCAC stars Lem Atanga McCormick and Kim Fiorentino. But with G.P. Gromacki bringing the highest career winning percentage of any active NCAA head coach into his sixth year at the helm, the future is hardly bleak.
2011-12 SEASON RECAP
Beyond individual accolades and gaudy percentages, the 2011-12 Lord Jeffs were a team that knew itself inside and out. Starting five seniors for the bulk of the season, the squad’s familiarity with one another on the court will be the biggest loss for Gromacki. Amherst opened last season with 31 consecutive wins, all but two of them coming by double-digit margins. The Jeffs cruised to their third consecutive NESCAC title before dismantling their first four opponents in the NCAA Tournament en route to a fourth straight trip to the Final Four. Owners of a 50-game win streak dating back to 2010-11, Amherst finally came up short in the national semifinals, falling to undefeated George Fox, 76-69.
MEET THE TEAM
Ranked 15th in the D3hoops.com Preseason Poll, Amherst returns two former NESCAC Rookies of the Year in co-captain Marcia Voigt ’13 and Megan Robertson ’15. Joining Voigt in the captaincy will be fellow seniors Bridget Crowley and Jasmine Hardy. Gromacki had high praise for the trio’s offseason leadership and expects their organization and supportiveness to help carry the Jeffs through the winter.
On the court, Voigt will provide stability at guard after appearing in all 33 games of 2011-12, averaging nearly seven points per contest while handing out 63 assists, fourth-most on the squad. Her elevated play down the stretch last year was key to the Jeffs’ Final Four berth, as the Skillman, NJ native was Amherst’s leading scorer in the squad’s NESCAC semifinal win over Colby as well as their NCAA Second Round triumph of Babson.
Hardy will join Voigt at guard, giving Gromacki a solid veteran base in his backcourt. Averaging just over 10 minutes per contest a year ago, the sharpshooter still finished second on the team with 38 three-point field goals while easily pacing the NESCAC with a stellar .494 percentage from downtown. If Hardy can maintain her deadly stroke with increased floor time and Voigt can replicate her late-season 2012 form throughout the winter, the pair will go a long way in helping replace the backcourt contributions of Stedman and Fiorentino.
Meanwhile, Robertson will likely be Amherst’s leading weapon inside. A unanimous choice as the conference’s top rookie last season, the 6’2” forward ranked third on the team with a 10.8 scoring average while leading the Jeffs at 7.4 rebounds per game. After ranking second in the NESCAC in field-goal percentage (.549) and fourth in blocks (40), Gromacki will look for further improvement from Robertson as she moves into the spotlight as a sophomore.
Crowley will join Robertson in the frontcourt after appearing in all but two contests a year ago and averaging over 11 minutes per game. At 6’1”, Crowley averaged over four points and three rebounds per matchup while blocking 23 shots. With an expanded role this year, Gromacki is excited for the contributions the Hampden, MA native will bring both on and off the court while embracing her chance to shine as a senior.
Rounding out Amherst’s returners, Savannah Holness ’15 and Julia Weatherly ’14 will see time at forward after each appeared in over 20 games last year, while Sally Marx ’15 will add depth at guard.
Finally, Amherst will welcome five newcomers to the fold. Taylor Smith ’15 (Newton, NJ) joins the squad as a sophomore, while first years Marley Giddins (Irvington, NY), Virginia Hassell (Franklin, VA), Cheyenne Pritchard (Ames, IA) and Haley Zwecker (Atlanta, GA) will also don the Purple and White for the first time. Gromacki will count on quality time from each over the course of the season, with several of the rookies expected to make immediate contributions.
The Jeffs open their season this weekend with the Amherst Tip-Off Tournament. The team will face Brooklyn College at 8 p.m. Saturday before meeting either Farmingdale State or William Paterson Sunday. William Paterson earned the No. 25 spot in the D3hoops.com preseason poll, while Amherst’s schedule will also feature a clash with No. 19 Emmanuel on Dec. 4.
With the Jeffs playing 10 non-conference games in 2012 before opening NESCAC play at Wesleyan on Jan. 4, Gromacki is excited to watch his squad take the court against someone other than each other. While the early season will be a time for gauging the improvements of returners and the readiness of newcomers, the expectation of excellence will remain for Amherst’s head coach, even if the faces on the hardwood at tip-off have changed.