Women’s hoops seeks NCAA berth

Women’s basketball has been hard at work preparing for the start of its season, which begins on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. against No. 25 Babson. The game will be played at MCLA. The team hopes to continue the progress made during last year’s historic season, when Williams played in the NESCAC championship game and the Div. III NCAA Final Four, both firsts for the program, which is about to enter its 40th season as a varsity sport.

However, the Ephs will have to contend with the loss of six seniors to graduation, including former co-captain Claire Baecher ’13, who was the NESCAC Player of the Year and an All-American last season. Jen Borderud ’13, Stephanie Browne ’13, Jennie Harding ’13, Grace Rehnquist ’13 and co-captain Danny Rainer ’13 helped lead the 2012-13 team to a 27-6 record, setting the mark for most wins in a single season in program history.

“Compared to other teams that we have had in the past, we are a really young team … but everyone has already stepped up and we are planning to surprise a lot of people in the NESCAC this year,” co-captain Ellen Cook ’15 said.

Cook and co-captain Kellie Macdonald ’15 hope that last year’s experience will help the team, currently ranked ninth in the pre-season USA Today Div. III Coaches Poll, prepare for some challenging early-season matchups and a difficult NESCAC conference schedule.

“We have a limited number of practices in the preseason compared to other Div. III teams in the nation, so we have been working hard in practice to get all our plays down and be ready to play our first game soon,” Cook said.

The team will need a large contribution from the incoming class consisting of Katie Leinbach ’17, Devon Caveney ’17, Elise Testa ’17, Lauren McCall ’17 and transfer Jane Thompson ’16. The new additions for the Ephs will provide much needed depth to a team that is smaller in numbers than in previous years.

The squad is led by Head Coach Pat Manning, who enters her 24th year of coaching as the winningest basketball coach in Williams history (406-179) and the 2013 d3hoops.com Northeast Region Coach of the Year.

Following Saturday’s season tipoff, the women play a Sunday game against Plattsburgh State at 1 p.m in Lasell Gym.

“Our first game of the season is against Babson, who is consistently a tough opponent, so it will be a good test for us right off the bat,” Cook said. “Our team is young, but we are ready to play and be competitive in every single game, and I am really looking forward to the season.”