Women’s basketball ready for 1st tourney

After several weeks of pre-season practice, women’s basketball is looking to start its season this weekend at the Emmanuel Invitational tournament at Emmanuel College. The team, ranked 14th nationally by D3Hoops, will start off Saturday with a game against William Smith and then will advance to play either Emmanuel or the College of Staten Island on Sunday.

“The way we approach our season is that we just want to get better every day,” Head Coach Pat Manning said. “We have an experienced team returning. Our goal is just to be able to play with consistency every game and really put together two solid halves.”

According to Manning, the upcoming tournament, as well as the early non-league games, will serve as preparation for the later NESCAC portion of the season. “We play an incredibly strong conference,” Manning said. “We want to play a really challenging non-league schedule [in order to prepare for that].”

Last year, five of the 10 NESCAC teams made the NCAA tournament. “We played with passion in the NCAA tournament last year, and we hope that gives us momentum as we begin play,” co-captain Chessie Jackson ’11 said.

Manning believes Amherst will be the Ephs’ most challenging competitor this season. “Right now, they’re rated number one in the country,” she said. The Ephs, however, have buckled down to prepare for the challenge presented by their archrival. Manning said the team has spent pre-season practices focusing heavily on both transition offense and half-court offense. In her opinion, the team’s strength lies in its defensive abilities.

“It is all about defense for us,” she said. “We’re the type of team that wants to establish our offense through our defense. We’re working on creating defensive intensity and looking to force the other team into making bad decisions.”

Manning said she would like to see the team improve its spacing on the court during offensive play, as well as shore up its rebounding skill. “We really want to spread the floor and make it hard for the other team to stop us,” she said. “[Also], there were games where we rebounded very well, and there were other games where we would have won if we had a better rebounding effort,” she said.

Three new first-year additions to the team add even more depth to a roster that graduated only one Eph last year, continuing the team chemistry from last season that Manning cites as crucial to the squad’s success.

The Ephs will first take to the court on Saturday in the first round of the Emmanuel Invitational. Williams will then travel to Springfield for a 5:30 p.m. game on Tuesday.