Jeffs Loaded With Talent and Experience in 2014-15

RobertsonSKID.jpgContact: Mike O'Brien

The Amherst College women’s basketball team is poised for success yet again this winter following an impressive 2013-14 campaign in which the team finished 26-4 overall and 9-1 in the NESCAC, despite a young squad that featured one sophomore and four first-years in its starting lineup down the stretch. Inexperience didn’t stop the Jeffs from reaching the third round of the NCAA Division III Championships, as well as a seventh straight NESCAC final appearance. Amherst, ranked No. 2 in the preseason poll, returns all key members from last year’s team.

The Jeffs open the 2014-15 campaign on the road against Keene State (Nov. 18) before hosting their annual Tip-Off Tournament on Nov. 22-23. After heading back on the road to face Emmanuel (Dec.2), the Jeffs return to LeFrak Gymnasium for four of their next five games, including the Amherst Classic against Drew (Dec. 29) and Manhattanville (Dec.30). Amherst brings in the new year with back-to-back non-conference road games and begin conference play Jan. 9 and Jan. 10 at home against Hamilton and Williams, respectively. The Jeffs then face a difficult road test beginning with Liberty League preseason favorite St. Lawrence (Jan. 12). Four days later, Amherst remains on the road for seven-straight away games before concluding the season with three-consecutive home matchups in February. The Jeffs hope to make another strong run in the NESCAC Championships beginning Feb. 21.

“We like our non-league schedule,” said head coach G.P. Gromacki, who enters his eighth season with the program. “We’ve added some quality opponents to get us ready for NESCAC play.” Since taking the reigns of Amherst women’s basketball, Gromacki has guided the Purple & White to an incredible 207-18 record with seventh-consecutive NCAA appearances, five Final Four’s, and one national championship (2011).

The Jeffs’ young backcourt is extremely talented and deep. Headlining the group is sophomore guard Ali Doswell. The 2013-14 NESCAC Rookie of the Year and second team all-conference selection excelled as a first-year, and became Amherst’s go-to player down the stretch. Doswell started 25 games last year and ranked second on the team in rebounds (5.8) and third in points (11.2) per game. She also hit a team-high 70 three-pointers to lead the NESCAC, and tied for first on the team with 74 assists. Joining her will be sophomore point guard Jaimie Renner. As a first-year, Renner averaged 29.3 minutes and started 27 games. She gained a lot of experience running the offense last season and dished out 74 assists while averaging 9.0 ppg. Renner also shot 41% (24-for-58) from behind-the-arc.

The backcourt veterans are junior Cheyenne Pritchard and Haley Zwecker. Pritchard has been a solid member of the squad throughout her first two seasons in Purple & White. She was the team’s top free-throw shooter as a sophomore and ranked sixth in the NESCAC with a 78% mark from the charity stripe. She also finished ninth in the league in three-point percentage (.358), hitting 39 of her 109 attempts. Zwecker provides a spark off the bench for the Jeffs. Last year, she averaged 16.3 minutes per game and went 15-of-31 (.484) from downtown.

Also returning to the backcourt this season are sophomores Hannah Peterson and Meredith Doswell. Peterson has the ability to score at will, as evident by her 30-point performance against Bates (Jan. 18) last year. Her 28.8 minutes per game were second most on the squad and her 57 three-pointers were fourth most in the NESCAC. Doswell continued to improve throughout the 2013-14 season and saw significant playing time down the stretch. The small forward looks to pick up where she left off.

Gromacki is excited to see two-time All-NESCAC forward Megan Robertson ’15 return to the court this season. Robertson, a preseason All-America third team selection, suffered a season-ending injury just 15 games into her junior campaign. Already considered an all-time Amherst great, the senior enters the season ranked second in program history in blocks (167 - seven shy of the record), sixth in rebounding (668) and 15th in scoring (951). Before her season was cut short, the 6-2 forward led the team in points (12.9 ppg) and rebounds (8.7 rpg), while her 37 blocks remained a team-high at the end of the year.

Joining her in the frontcourt will be junior Marley Giddins. A true scorer, Giddins is arguably Amherst’s most athletic player. In last season’s “Sweet 16” matchup against Ithaca, she led the team with 22 points on 10-of-17 shooting and grabbed 12 rebounds to complete the double-double. Her 11.9 ppg were second most on the team, and her 7.7 rpg ranked sixth in the conference. Giddins also finished second in the league in field goal percentage, connecting on 57% (130-for-229) of her shots.

Gromacki welcomes another impressive group of newcomers this season as well; Rebecca Ford ’18, Hannah Hackley ’18, Lily Johnson ’18, Jackie Nagle ’18 and Jenna Schumacher ’18. “The first-year class brings a lot of size and athleticism,” said Gromacki. The five members of the Class of 2018 are all at least 5-10 or taller.